NZNBL signs broadcast deal with US giant ESPN to air Kiwi competition to millions

The NZNBL has signed a broadcast deal with American sports broadcasting giant ESPN to televise the New Zealand basketball competition to millions in the US.

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NZNBL general manager Justin Nelson says the broadcast deal will see games accessible to millions. Source: 1 NEWS

NZNBL general manager, Justin Nelson, said the agreement is a triumph for Kiwi players that New Zealand basketball has never seen before.

“This is massive. All 56 games and many hours of New Zealand broadcast sport will be live to the vast sport-hungry audience throughout the US. The chance for New Zealand basketball to be shown on ESPN is incredible for our players, the seven competing teams and all of our sponsors," Nelson said.

“This news should reinforce to everyone that basketball is a global sport and we have the ability to take our game and our commercial partners right around the world. New Zealand basketball is absolutely worth investing in, it is a booming sport across more than 200 countries.

“This is also an opportunity for us to showcase Auckland and New Zealand globally. Alongside our partners at ATEED, we can’t wait to show everyone this beautiful part of the world."

1 NEWS understands while the deal will not feature a significant financial figure for the NZNBL, organisers are excited by the agreement for the sheer amount of exposure it will give the competition with little basketball action taking place currently around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

ESPN's interest in the NZNBL is understood to have spurred from the league's radical player draft that took place almost two weeks ago which saw the seven Kiwi franchises select a roster of 10 players and two injury reserves from a pool of more than 200 athletes.

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Teams have a chance to pick up talent from the 400 registered to play in the competition, which starts later this month. Source: 1 NEWS

The NZNBL, which tips off this afternoon when the Taranaki Mountainairs take on the Nelson Giants at 5:30pm NZT, will be the first basketball competition to get up and running with spectators in attendance since competitions were suspended due to the pandemic.

Interest in the league is also growing outside the US with the Philippines, Australia, South-East Asia and parts of Europe also understood to be looking at the competition.

The competition has been revamped to take place solely in Auckland, meaning five teams have moved north and are staying in Auckland's SkyCity Hotel for six weeks to be part of the action.

Nelson said today's announcement is only possible because of the sacrifices players and staff are making.

“The biggest winners from the ESPN agreement are those who absolutely deserve every bit of the attention coming their way – the players. They are the stars of the show.

"The sacrifice they have made to play cannot be understated. We don’t have the same dollars as others, we don’t have the same funding as others, but we’re digging deep, we’re in it together and we’re fighting for the survival of our national league," Nelson said.

"It’s a team effort and the NBL team are extremely proud of every one of them and the seven teams that have backed it.”

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Approximately 80 basketballers will call the SkyCity Hotel home for the competition. Source: 1 NEWS

The NZNBL has used the opportunity created by Covid-19 to trial some new rules as well with Nelson stating last month a new world-first innovation will also be trialled to decide tied games with a unique "first-team-to-score-seven-points" concept instead of the traditional overtime period.

“It’s likely this competition will be one of the few basketball leagues being played in the world at this time, that offers a big opportunity for an extended audience,” Nelson said at the time.

“It also presents us with a chance to try something new.

"We like to think of ourselves as innovators here in New Zealand and the ‘first-to-seven’ concept is a bit outside the square, which we think will be engaging for fans.”

The US' basketball league, the NBA, is set to return late next month with 22 of the 30 teams heading to Disney World in Orlando, Florida to create their own competition bubble.