The NBA is an imperfect league, but one area in which the association really gets it right is in not being afraid to try new things. Commissioner Adam Silver doesn't mind tinkering, tweaking and evolving with the times.
One of the most interesting things the NBA is rolling out this year is a la carte viewing availability for games. The full League Pass — a wonderful thing for hard-core fans that has been around for more than two decades and offers up every available game — is still available, of course, for $199.
But now a fan can also buy a single-team pass (all games for one team, though blackout rules are still in effect in local markets) for $120. Or — and this is the most forward-thinking piece of it all — for $6.99 you can buy a single game and have it streamed on your computer, tablet or mobile device. (The NBA is in discussions with TV distributors to offer the single game option that way as well).
This type of a la carte pricing is what sports fans have been waiting for, so in one sense the future is here. If you're a casual Wolves fan living in Utah with a night to kill, you can drop seven bucks to satisfy your curiosity. There's no commitment other than a reasonably small amount of money, at least when considered in isolation.
On the other hand, that kind of a la carte pricing gets spendy pretty quick. You want choice? It's going to cost you. Don't want to pay triple digits for a cable/satellite bill every month? You don't have to, but you'll get nickel-and-dimed along the way if you still want access.
If I was a big fan of a specific team and lived outside that team's home market, I would be genuinely tempted by the $120 single-team option, since I likely would have cable TV anyway and could see almost every other game I really wanted to watch on national telecasts.
What I would REALLY love is the option to buy a game in progress at a discount if it looked enticing. Kobe has 40 points through three quarters? Yeah, put me down for $3.99 to see the fourth.
I suspect most people who really love the NBA will either still pony up full price for the League Pass or get by with the local/national access they get with cable. And that a la carte pricing, which people claim they want, will remain a thing that few people actually use when it comes to sports. If you care enough to spend money on a specific game, you probably care enough to pay for more.
Maybe that's the real genius of Silver and Co. — when you consider how expensive it would be to pay for the NBA at $7 a game, dropping $199 or $120 for seamless access doesn't sound so bad.