When I was a young teenager, like 13 or 14, growing up in rural Connecticut, my family didn't have cable television until I was in ninth grade (which incidentally is my "I walked to school uphill, both ways, barefoot" token that I fire back in my kids' faces when they complain about the cable going out). Even once we got cable, we still lived in a part of the state that got only like 25 of the Red Sox games on television. The Red Sox, incidentally, were my favorite team.
So I used to love going to my grandmother's house in Vermont to visit because her cable package got Channel 38 in Boston, which meant I could watch all the Red Sox games! It didn't matter that it was July baseball against the horrific Blue Jays, it was Red Sox baseball, something I was deprived of by our cable provider in Connecticut.
"Man," I thought, "if I could just pay a few bucks per game, I'd give anything to be able to watch those games whenever I wanted."
Now, here we are, 30 years later, and the walls to everybody selectively watching every game of the team they grew up rooting for, even halfway across the world, are crumbling down. Satellite TV packages, regional sports networks, the internet….man, it's a long way from Nana Pendergast's house in Bennington, Vermont in 1984. You can watch almost anything, anytime!
The latest brick in the sports-watching wall to be crumbled to smithereens was announced yesterday, as ESPN.com's Darren Rovell revealed that the NBA will be offering viewers (with most cable and satellite providers) the opportunity to purchase single games for $6.99. Fans will be able to watch the games on television or on broadband via tablets, computers or mobile devices.
Add in the fact that the NBA is now offering a modified League Pass where fans can pick one out-of-market team and watch just their games for $119 (as opposed to the full League Pass for $199), and the fact that the ability to customize which teams you consume and how you consume them has never been more flexible. The only thing missing is the ability to purchase small portions of games (like, say, the final two minutes of a game for $0.99, which would be TV crack to fans who gamble on sports), which the NBA has not eliminated as a possibility sometime down the road.
I can't stress enough, these are total game-changers for sports viewers. The continued ability to tailor our viewing experience will evolve even more over time, and will continue to put teams in smaller cities outside of major markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago on a more equal footing when it comes to retaining star players, since their brand and talents can be consumed just as easily from a tablet or computer or over satellite as they can in the actual cities they play.
The packages outlined above — both "per game for $6.99" and "pick a team for $119" — will be available only for teams outside a viewer's metro area and for games that are not nationally televised. The NBA will always protect its national TV partners, since that is by far the biggest chunk of their revenue pie.
For the record, I'm a League Pass guy, so I'll probably still purchase the whole season, every game for $199, because I am a pathological NBA watcher (It's truly a great deal if you're a hoops junkie), BUT if I were to have to choose three non-Rockets games to watch for $6.99 and three out-of-market teams to watch for $119, mine would be as follows:
1. DeAndre to Dallas
DeAndre Jordan didn't just spurn the Dallas Mavericks. He said he would become a Maverick and then hit the city over the head with a steel chair. I can't wait to hear the boos for him when he comes to town. We need a "Cuban cam" on Mavs owner Mark Cuban for the entire game.
2. Return of KD
One of the biggest variables this upcoming season is the health of Kevin Durant's foot. If he's healthy, the West has six — SIX! — NBA title contenders. How crazy is that? If he's not healthy, then the storylines ripple far beyond the upcoming season, especially with Durant's free agency looming in the summer of 2016.
3. Big Blue Nation Battle
Anthony Davis is the next big thing and was the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. Karl-Anthony Towns is the savior of Minnesota and the No. 1 pick in this past draft. Both are former Kentucky Wildcat one-and-dones. We need John Calipari as the special guest referee for this matchup when the Pelicans face off with the Timberwolves.
1. SACRAMENTO KINGS
Here is a video of DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings' best player, and George Karl, the Kings' head coach, shaking hands a couple weeks ago...
Yes, they hate each other. Also, Rajon Rondo is now a King. If you're looking to see a murder happen on live TV, get the Kings' season package.
2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Here is a video of the Lakers' three most important trade and free agency acquisitions — center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass — being asked if Kobe Bryant has reached out to them….
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If you're looking to see a murder happen on live TV, after the Kings' season package, I'd order the Lakers' season package. (Or just double up, pay $199 for League Pass and hope for murder.)
3. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
With Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James all on the same page and heading into the season signed, paid and healthy, considering that the Eastern Conference is to the NBA what the ACC is to college football (top-heavy, one or two good teams in the conference) , the Cavaliers could make a run at 65 wins. The only things impeding them are a) health or b) David Blatt handling the regular season in a Popovich-ian fashion, resting headliners for the greater good. (And if the season goes sideways, the third-best chance at a murder on live TV would be LeBron murdering Blatt's NBA head coaching career.)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.