NBA agrees multi-year deal in the Philippines with Cignal, Smart

Pay-television platform Cignal TV and telco Smart Communications, sister companies owned by telco PLDT, have become the NBA’s main media-rights partners in the Philippines in a multi-year deal.

The new deal covers the remainder of the 2019-20 season, which is to restart on July 30, and a number of seasons beyond that, although the exact number has not been announced.

As part of the deal, Cignal and Smart’s sister free-to-air broadcasters TV5 and ONE Sports – also ultimately owned by PLDT – have rights in the 2019-20 season to four matches per week from the regular season, selected playoff matches, and all Conference Finals matches. TV5 will show exclusive live coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals.

Cignal is also launching a 24-7, high-definition NBA channel, NBA TV Philippines, on its satellite pay-television platform. Smart will carry a live stream of NBA TV Philippines on its OTT platform. Smart last November renewed a deal to carry NBA League Pass, the league’s direct-to-consumer OTT subscription service.

Smart will also take charge of relaunching the NBA’s official Filipino website, NBA.com/Philippines. The website will carry highlights, stats, standings, scores, schedules, features and analysis.

The Philippines is one of the NBA’s biggest overseas territories in terms of fan numbers and a source of considerable media-rights income. The new agreement ends a long wait for a deal in the market.  The 2019-20 season ran until its suspension in March due to Covid-19 without a main media-rights partner in the Philippines, after talks between the league and media companies failed to produce a deal.

The NBA agreed short-term deals with news broadcaster CNN Philippines and social media platforms Facebook and Twitter to show live matches in the interim.

Previous media-rights partner Solar Entertainment withdrew from rights renewal talks and pulled its Basketball TV and NBA Premium TV channels from the air last October.

Solar and ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ biggest free-to-air broadcaster, were jointly the NBA’s main partners in the 2014-15 to 2018-19 cycle. In a major shock to the market in May this year, ABS-CBN was forced off the air after the Philippines’ media regulator failed to renew its license.