National Basketball League executive director Larry Kestelman believes the credibility of the league has improved markedly this season, but admits television ratings could be better.
Kestelman, an entrepreneur and owner of Melbourne United who took over the majority ownership of the NBL in an unprecedented move before the start of the current season, said the league has made good progress but that there was still room for improvement.
"We have certainly raised the standard of the product on the court, with the quality of the players we have now. So I think we have had a good year but I don't want to get caught up in the hype and do a lot of back-slapping around here. I think the perception of the league has changed to a more positive one, but there is still a lot of work to do."
In particular, Kestelman said the league needed to improve its television ratings. "I think the one thing I would really like to see is more people watching us on TV."
The NBL announced a five-year deal with Fox Sports at the beginning of the season last October, but the terms of the deal included a clause for the contract to be reviewed after the 2015-16 season ends with the grand final series after semi-finals that begin later this week.
The deal has Fox Sports covering the production costs for the telecasting of live matches four to five nights per week on the pay-television network, with one match shown on Nine Entertainment Co's Gem digital channel each Sunday. NBL matches have rarely made the list of the 20 highest-rating shows on Foxtel each week.
Kestelman said he was mostly satisfied with the growth in crowds, which has included several sellFouts for clubs in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and even Sydney, where the Sydney Kings have struggled on the court and moved home stadium halfway through the season.
FINALS WILL DRAW BIG CROWDS
Melbourne United's last match of the regular season on Sunday against the New Zealand Breakers was sold out two weeks in advance, and Kestelman said crowds for the finals series will be big.
"That match [against New Zealand] meant 10,500 people had bought tickets and 53 corporate boxes were sold two weeks before the match. People talk about the halcyon days being when the [Melbourne] Tigers played the Magic back in the 1990s, but this is one Melbourne team playing a team from interstate or overseas. So I think it is even bigger now."
The league will also be boosted by the return of the Brisbane Bullets franchise for its 2016-17 season, which will give it a much-needed presence in one of the country's biggest markets after an eight-year absence. Kestelman said the NBL hoped to sell the team and gaining a licence fee.
He also said the league would also investigate the merits of another expansion franchise in Melbourne and examine whether it had too many teams in Queensland, given the existing clubs in Cairns and Townsville. "There is a question whether three teams in Queensland is too many," Kestelman said.
Read more: http://www.afr.com/business/sport/national-basketball-league-boss-larry-kestelman-satisfied-with-crowds-but-admits-tv-ratings-need-to-improve-20160211-gmre19#ixzz40rkaCvqz
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