Call it a cool inflight content deal, hamstrung by licensing challenges. Viasat and the NBA teamed up to offer streaming access to the NBA League Pass for passengers through a multi-year deal. Ultimately, millions of travelers will enjoy access to live and on-demand NBA games and content on their personal electronic devices at no extra cost when they register for NBA League Pass in-flight.
By leveraging Viasat’s world-class satellite technology and global reach, we believe this partnership will transform the future of content consumption for airline passengers and allow us to engage millions of new and existing NBA fans in a whole new way.– NBA Senior Vice President, Global Media Distribution and Business Operations, Matt Brabants
Alas, geographic licensing restrictions mean that, at least initially, the service won’t really be available on the vast majority of flights on equipped planes. Passengers on domestic flights in the US, Canada, and China cannot access the content.
The timing of the deal is spectacular for fans. With the NBA playoffs tipping off this weekend the premium version of NBA League Pass – featuring every NBA game live and on-demand – becomes available to passengers onboard aircraft with Viasat In-flight connectivity. Initial airlines participating in the offering include American Airlines and JetBlue. Other airlines are expected to sign on in the months ahead.
Passengers on NBA League Pass-enabled flights will be able to use the speed and efficiency of Viasat’s global satellite network to access NBA platforms, create or sign into an existing NBA account, and immediately access League Pass’s Next-Generation
game viewing enhancements, including new camera angles, multiple in-language streams, celebrity influencer commentary, in-depth analytics and statistical graphics and condensed games for on-demand viewing.
Because of the geographic licensing restrictions, however, fewer than 20% of the potentially eligible flights will have access to the offering. A review of scheduled flights suggests that just 19% of Saturday’s departures on Viasat-equipped planes will fly international routes. That number drops to 15% on Monday. The numbers should improve as more foreign carriers sign on, something that Viasat expects to occur. But the initial exposure base is limited.
The deal is similar to one launched by JetBlue with MLB.tv in 2015. That partnership also used the Viasat Ka-band satellite platform to deliver streaming sports to passengers on board. The main difference in that case was the availability. It did not suffer from the same geographic limitations as the new NBA deal.
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