NBL makes board appointments in bid to secure broadcast deal

The National Basketball League’s new executive director, Larry Kestelman, has said he is “cautiously optimistic” about securing a broadcast rights deal for the Australian club competition as he seeks to revive its fortunes.

The NBL last month set out plans to become one of Australia’s major sporting competitions after a deal was agreed for Kestelman, co-owner and chairman of the Melbourne United franchise, to secure a controlling stake in the league.

Kestelman, the founder of internet service provider Dodo, has taken a controlling interest in the NBL through a A$6m (€4.23m/$4.8m) investment from his company LK Group. The 2015-16 NBL season commences in October and is without a broadcast partner at present after a contract with commercial broadcaster Ten ended at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign.

The NBL has engaged leading media rights consultant Shane Mattiske to help broker a deal. Mattiske played a key role in the National Rugby League’s current record-breaking contract. Commercial broadcaster Nine and pay-television operator Fox Sports in August 2012 signed five-year rights deals, from 2013 to 2017, collectively worth A$1.025bn, or A$205m per year.

Mattiske quit as the NRL’s head of strategy last year.

The league has also made three new appointments to the NBL board and senior executive team in an effort to drive through a broadcast deal. The new members are: Bob Elphinston, a former president of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba); Laura Anderson, an international company director and adviser to government and industry who sits on the board of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation; and sports media rights specialist Colin Smith.

Kestelman, stressing the importance he was placing on restoring “credibility and strength” to the struggling league, said a television rights deal was crucial.

“I am cautiously confident … I really believe whoever will take this on will look at this as a longer-term proposition,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. “Even though I do believe I am not in any position to make demands, I would like to see a longer-term partner, longer than a year.”

Kestelman is keen that any rights deal ensures all matches in the eight-team league are broadcast live. He added that a new deal is a must if the NBL is to truly shed what he says has been a “scariness” among potential sponsors and investors.

He added in a statement: “We are wasting no time in engaging with all the TV networks to develop what the product will look like for next season and are determined to bring basketball back to its rightful spot as the best TV sports entertainment product in Australia.”