The NBA has unveiled its revamped League Pass International in time for the kickoff of the 2010-11 season. Built by NeuLion, the subscription streaming service offers live HD video of every NBA game (up to 40 per week), including multiple live games at the same time.
“It’s a very impressive product,” says Chris Wagner, EVP/co-founder of NeuLion. “There is a huge basketball fan base internationally and especially in Europe. It’s grown tremendously over there, and I think the [NBA League Pass] product is perfect for that kind of fan base.”
NeuLion’s Rookie Year
The 2010-11 campaign marks NeuLion’s inaugural year as service provider for NBA League Pass International, which was operated by RayV last season. In an effort to create a more interactive experience, NeuLion has added a bevy of features this season: full DVR functionality, increased instant replay, advanced data features (six total data feeds into the player), and several viewing options, such as full screen, picture-in-picture, and quad screen.
In addition, users have the ability to access replays of individual plays via icons along the video player’s scrubber bar while watching a live game.
“At every game, the NBA has a logger that is logging each play: dunk, 3-pointer, foul,” says Wagner. “That gets sent as a data feed and gets encoded and synchronized with our video so it appears on the scrubber bar. You can hover over the icon with your mouse, and it will tell you the play and the time of the game, or you can click on the icon and see the highlight immediately.”
NBA League Pass International takes the regional sports networks’ game feeds from NBA Entertainment’s headquarters in Secaucus, NJ.
“All the feeds already go into [Secaucus], so we don’t have to track them all down individually,” Wagner points out. “They take our software encoder, put it on an Intel box, encode it into a H.264 feed at a 3-Mbps high bitrate that gets backhauled into our data center for transcoding and distribution.”
NeuLion editors are also responsible for creating and publishing condensed games, archived games, and highlights for the NBA’s multitude of platforms.
This season, for the first time, NBA League Pass International is available on mobile devices, including the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and iPad platforms.
“We’ve got all the big mobile devices this year, including iPad,” says Wagner. “That was very important to us and [the NBA]. We haven’t done any of the connected TV devices yet but aren’t ruling it out.”
The service is independent of the league’s domestic NBA League Pass streaming service, which was developed by NBA Digital (a Turner Sports-NBA joint venture).
“Obviously, the games are the same, but the services are very different in terms of video quality and interactive features,” says Wagner. “We’re totally independent from Turner on this, so the look and features are very different.”
Spreading the Word
Although the product is focused on the European market, NBA League Pass International is available to fans in more than 200 countries and territories all over the world. It is not available in the China, Bermuda, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Taiwan or in the U.S. and its territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands).
“We’re very excited about [NBA League Pass International],” says Wagner. “I think there is a lot of potential for [NBA] basketball around the world, and this product takes advantage of that.”