By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

THE National Basketball Association resumes with its 2019-2020 season on Friday in a “bubble” setup in Orlando, Florida, and along with it Cignal TV marks its first day serving as the new home of the league in the Philippines.

And it is a role that the country’s most subscribed pay TV provider cannot wait to do, believing that it is a partnership that is suited for both parties and something Filipino NBA fans can benefit from.

Cignal, along with Smart Communications, Inc., on Monday officially acquired the rights to broadcast the NBA games through free-to-air, satellite television and over-the-top streaming.

The deal covers the remainder of the 2019-20 season to be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, where the 22 qualified teams will be holed up throughout the tournament.

It took a while for Cignal to get the rights to broadcast the NBA, taking over from Solar Entertainment, but it is said the wait was worth it and that its subscribers and the general public should be excited of its offering. “We will deliver NBA content, not just for our pay TV subscribers but to the general public. Everyone will have access to the NBA through our channels TV5 and ONE Sports. But of course, you get the best NBA experience on TV if you’re on Cignal,” said Cignal TV and TV5 President and CEO Robert Galang.

Under the deal, Cignal subscribers will be able to access a new channel called NBA TV Philippines starting July 31, airing an average of two games per day, along with shows directly from NBA TV in the United States, including flagship program NBA GameTime. The channel’s coverage goes all the way up to the NBA Finals, and is the only destination on TV where fans can watch the games in high definition.

Free TV channels TV5 and ONE Sports, meanwhile, will be airing games on Saturday and Sunday for TV5 and every Friday and Monday for ONE Sports. Coverage begins on July 31 and extends to the NBA Playoffs for both channels, with the NBA Finals airing exclusively on TV5.

Cignal’s marketing head Guido Zaballero further explained that NBA TV Philippines will be available to Cignal postpaid subscribers on plans 520 and up. For prepaid, Mr. Zaballero said loads 600 and up will get the channel 262 HD feed and loads 450 and above will get the channel 96 SD feed.

The channel will also be made available as an add-on for P200 a month, on both Cignal (channel 262 HD) and SatLite (channel 52 SD), the company’s mass-market Pay TV brand. The channel will be offered two months free of charge for new subscribers who switch to Cignal at the start of the season, until the end of the year.

“The NBA is a huge piece of the puzzle, basketball is so loved here in the country and having it pretty much completes our basketball offering since we also have the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association),” said Mr.  Zaballero in an earlier interview with BusinessWorld.

NBA games today will see the New Orleans Pelicans versus the Utah Jazz at 6:30 a.m. and the Los Angeles Lakers against LA Clippers at 9 a.m. On Aug. 1 the Portland Trail Blazers battle the Memphis Grizzlies at 4 a.m. and the Boston Celtics jostle with the Milwaukee Bucks at 6:30 a.m.

The NBA suspended its season on March 12 because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.