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Turner Sports COO: Micro-transactions are part of 'evolving' sports industry

As the NBA tips off its 2018-19 regular season, the pro basketball league is expanding the game to bring micro-transactions to fans.

Through the NBA League Pass out-of-market service and B/R Live, a direct-to-consumer offering from AT&T Inc.'s Turner Sports, fans can watch one full game for $6.99 or check out fourth-quarter action from a single contest for $1.99.

Speaking on a panel at a sports business conference on Oct. 16, Turner Sports COO Matt Hong said later in the season those transactional capabilities will expand to half of a contest or three-quarters of a single game. Hong said the new partial-game options for NBA League Pass may draw fans who have interest in a player who is setting a scoring record, people who are looking at the performance of their fantasy players or people who have a wager on a game.

According to the executive, micro-transactions are yet another way "the sports industry is evolving." Micro-transactions, he said, will become even more important as legalized sports betting becomes available in more states.

Peter Hutton, the former CEO of Discovery Inc.-owned Eurosport, who is now head of live sports at Facebook Inc., noted that sports betting is core to fan experiences abroad, pointing to wagering on soccer matches as a key component of lifting engagement and maintaining interest in the Premier League and Bundesliga, the top-flight soccer leagues in the U.K. and Germany, respectively.

Hutton said while Europe has often looked to the U.S. relative to production and other aspects of sports management, the U.S. would do well take its cue from the continent in terms of sports betting, particularly when it comes to in-game wagering.

Asked about tech companies' interest in sports, Hutton said digital platforms are experimenting with rights and are trying a variety of different models. Sports are part of "Facebook’s DNA," he said, since they are "about community and so are we."

He said Facebook's sports content investments to date are emblematic of that. This past season, Facebook exclusively streamed 25 Major League Baseball games in the U.S. It also currently controls three seasons worth of rights to La Liga, Spain's top soccer circuit, to exclusively present matches in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Facebook is also livestreaming certain UEFA Champions League matches across Spanish-speaking Latin American territories.