By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

DESPITE the absence of a local television broadcast partner for its games right now, the National Basketball Association reiterated that the Philippines remains a priority market for the league and that it is continuously finding ways to bring its product to the fans to enjoy.

Speaking with sportswriters in a media discussion at their office at Bonifacio Global City on Oct. 25, Carlo Singson, NBA Philippines managing director, said they recognize the situation regarding TV broadcast in the country and are working towards addressing it.

“The Philippines remains to be a priority market for the NBA. It is home to a large and passionate fan base and we don’t take that lightly. Our goal is to service our fans. We’ve been in this market for over 30 years, even before I joined the NBA,” said Mr. Singson.

“TV is an integral part of our distribution strategy and we are in discussions with both local groups and international groups. The discussions unfortunately are quite complex and take a lot of time. Ideally, it would have been done by the start of the season but negotiations, discussions and talks take time,” added the NBA Philippines official, who declined to go into specifics as negotiations are ongoing but nonetheless said they are determined to get things done “way before the end of the season.”

Local fans were left with no TV platform to see the games after the NBA’s long partnership with Solar Entertainment lapsed just weeks before the start of the 2019–20 season.

Solar operated the Basketball TV and NBA Premium TV channels, widely acknowledged as the go-to sources on TV for comprehensive NBA coverage in the country.

Reports have it that among those interested in picking up NBA broadcasting rights are Cignal and Sky Cable, which are jointly negotiating with the league.

“I would like to thank Solar for everything they have done for the NBA. We’ve been partners with them for many years, since 2001 actually. And they have been a very important partner for us to grow the fan base of the NBA here and to continually come up with content to engage them. It’s hard, but like I said, we are in conversations with multiple players both locally and internationally,” said Mr. Singson of their partnership with Solar.

One of the ways they are going about bringing the games to the fans in lieu of TV is through social media.

For tipoff week, NBA Philippines has made games available through Facebook and Twitter.

Mr. Singson shared that such tack is something they are still “experimenting” on but considering the good response it has been getting they are very high on it moving forward, especially since the Filipinos are one of the more engaged with the league on social media globally — 17 million Filipinos following the NBA across its social media platforms.

He cited the first game they featured on livestream between the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers on Oct. 23, which was received well here, drawing two million unique visitors.

“Putting games on Facebook and Twitter, for the first time, it’s an experiment but I think given that we had two million unique visitors on our first game, I think it’s so far been quite successful,” Mr. Singson said.

“That’s just slightly under what we were doing in TV last year. So yeah, we’re pretty excited about this whole new field,” he added.

Following tipoff week, NBA Philippines will livestream games twice a week, every Mondays and Thursdays.

Mr. Singson also took time to discuss NBA League Pass, the premium subscription service of the NBA, which he said has grown by leaps and bounds in the Philippines and touted it as great source for fans to have their steady fix of the games.

The service, he said, has experienced double-digit growth in the country, second only to Australia in the Asia-Pacific region as far NBA League Pass subscriptions.

“We continue to develop it (League Pass), work on it. It is a great tool. You can catch live games, replays — games on-demand basically. You can watch it anytime, anywhere. We’ve added new features like the Mobile View which optimizes the viewing for smaller devices like phones and tablets, plus others,” Mr. Singson said of the service here.

“Also, we’ve developed new packages, new bundling, new pricing. So we have League Pass (and) Team Choice, which is basically — you select a team and you can watch every game from that team. We are also introducing the 3-Game Choice, which fans can get for as low as 100 pesos,” he added.

While the TV broadcast situation has yet to be settled, Mr. Singson said fans should not be worried because the league has them in mind in every decision they make.

“I would say fans shouldn’t be worried. That’s why we did our games on social media. Seventeen million fans is quite a large number. Is it everybody? No. But that’s why we are putting things in place that we hope we can announce soon that will hopefully please the fans,” he said.

“But yeah, we continue to look at all opportunities available to us and how best we can service our fans and those are the opportunities that we will pursue,” the NBA Philippines official added.