NBA Lockout Update: NBA Pulls Player Images from their Network and Website

12 Jul

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The Wall Street Journal released an article in today’s paper about the NBA lockout that began earlier this month. News, inquiries, and commentary about the labor dispute has dominated the internet, including NBA.com and official team websites.

But the National Basketball Assoiation is keeping the players out of this…

According to the WSJ, the league removed all images and videos of current players from its digital properties and its television network, NBA TV, after the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expired at the start of the month.

Popular video replays showing top players such as Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin have been replaced with archival footage of NBA games, photos of retired players and intense news coverage of the lockout.

On individual NBA team websites, generic team logos have taken the place of player head shots.

The NBA is trying go avoid profiting from the still images and videos of the players themselves during what is expected to be a very long lockout. Advertising on those sites is based on page views.

“We do not think it is appropriate to be using video and photography of our current players at this time,” said NBA spokesman Mike Bass. People close to the NBA say that the league doesn’t believe it should continue profiting off players by using their images online after locking them out over issues of compensation and revenue sharing.

While there are some concerns that traffic to the NBA’s digital properties might decline, TBS, which operates these digital businesses (as well as its TV network) said it isn’t concerned about losing player images at a time when fans are fixated on the work stoppage.

“It’s what fans want to read about. They want to know what’s next, and whether that reporting is as interesting as video highlights from the previous season isn’t really for me to say,” said Scooter Vertino, vice president of content for NBA Digital at Turner, which is part of Time Warner Inc.

Turner has also beefed up NBA history on the site.

On Friday, a top news item chronicled the death of Armen Gilliam, a long-time NBA player known as “The Hammer.”

On Thursday, the home page of NBA.com featured a prominent image of Tom “Satch” Sanders, a veteran player who retired in 1973 and will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame next month.

Earlier in the week, a news item covered treatment of Kobe Bryant’s knee injury—but without any photographs of him.

“Historically, strikes have a negative impact on fan response,” says Jessica Reif Cohen, a media analyst at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. “To me, the issue is that fans get disgusted when there is a strike, and that can create larger issues.”

WSJ reported at the revenue NBA.com takes in from advertising is small compared with the roughly $1 billion the league’s TV-distribution partners make in advertising revenue each year, according to industry analysts. According to estimates provided by Barclays Capital, NBA.com took in nearly $22 million in advertising revenue last year.

But web revenue has been growing. 2010’s profit represents an 88% increase from a year earlier, when NBA.com produced $11.7 million in ad revenue. In 2008, it took in just over $6 million.

NBA.com receives millions of vistors each month.

In May, NBA.com attracted 12.2 million unique visitors, up 47% from May 2009, when it had 8.3 million, according to research firm comScore Inc.

Any shift in traffic patterns on NBA.com has, so far, not affected advertising on the site, according to a person close to NBA.com who is familiar with its deal structures, according to the WSJ.

NBA.com hasn’t seen any immediate loss in sponsorships for the coming season, this person added, noting that the site is proceeding with deals for next season but “incorporating more flexible options for our advertisers during this time.”

The NBA’s Mr. Bass declined to comment on whether the league had seen any changes in the traffic patterns on its sites.

Source: Associated Press and Wall Street Journal

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