NBA to offer live games online

NEW YORK -- Some 40 NBA games will be available live online each week as the league extends its television subscription package to the Internet.

Fans, however, will be restricted in their ability to follow hometown teams. Technology will be used to block access to local games to preserve television rights. Also excluded are games broadcast on television nationally.

The NBA League Pass package costs $179 and will give subscribers access to the regular-season games both online and through cable or satellite, according to a league announcement scheduled for Monday. However, fans can only sign up through a cable or satellite provider, and the broadband service is not available separately.

The league said it is also offering a free, ad-supported service giving fans highlights of top plays, news conferences, interviews and other coverage.

The package will be available only in the United States.

A separate service is being sold in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Nearly 90 regular-season and playoff games will be available, most of them live. The games will carry commentary in Chinese.

The NBA represents the latest professional league to expand its online offerings.

For years, baseball has been selling Internet packages of live games with similar blackout technologies to preserve lucrative television deals. Last month, the NFL launched a service with Yahoo! Inc. to show games live on computers outside North America. College sports are also making their way online.

Baseball and football employ technologies that can pinpoint an individual's location by checking a computer's Internet address.

Because the NBA is selling games through cable and satellite providers, the league will block games based on the provider's location. That means a New York fan will have Knicks and Nets game blacked out even when traveling to Los Angeles.

The NBA said the service is available through EchoStar Communications Corp.'s DISH Network and DirecTV Group Inc. satellite systems and through most digital cable providers.