Steve Ballmer Builds a ‘Basketball Mecca’ as NBA Looks to Future for TV Rights

·2-min read

The Los Angeles Clippers are stepping up their arena game.

Steve Ballmer, Los Angeles Clippers chairman, spoke with Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast about his plan to build the team a dedicated arena in Inglewood, Calif., scheduled to open in 2024. The team at present shares Staples Center with their NBA rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Ballmer has been deeply involved in the planning and design for the venue, which will have state-of-the-art technology features and a host of elements that will make it purpose built for basketball and concert performances. No other sports will play in Intuit Arena, as it will be known thanks to a naming-rights deal with the software company that was announced last month.

“For basketball, that means creating a sense of community,” Ballmer says. “The more people feel like they are brought together, that makes for a better experience. I wanted to make sure it was a basketball mecca.”

Ballmer and other NBA team owners are also facing big-picture questions about how the league will handle its upcoming TV rights negotiations. The NBA’s current national deals with TNT/TBS and ESPN run through the 2024-25 NBA season. But Ballmer is in the midst of a local TV rights negotiation with Bally Sports, the regional sports cabler formerly known as Fox Sports West that is now owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group and other investors.

Given Ballmer’s technology background, sports observers have been watching to see if the Clippers try to find innovative approaches to distributing games or even in how the games are produced. Ballmer wouldn’t show much of his hand, but said that there is no question that the dealmaking landscape for pro sports teams and leagues is changing fast.

“There are options,” Ballmer said. “Obviously if we can work the right deal with Bally, they’ve been a great partner for a long period of time. In business, you’ve got to have options. We have options.”

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

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