Australian basketball league opener breaks viewership record with Facebook stream

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: LaMelo Ball of the Hawks controls the ball during the match between the Illawarra Hawks and the Brisbane Bullets at WIN Sports & Entertainment Centre on October 06, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

The opening game of the 2019 Australian National Basketball League season had 1 million viewers on a Facebook live stream in the US, tuning in to see 17-year-old player LaMelo Ball – the younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball.

LaMelo, who made his debut for the Illawarra Hawks in the game against the Brisbane Bullets, is tipped as a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Another prospective lottery pick, RJ Hampton, is also currently playing in the NBL, for the New Zealand Breakers.

The US streaming audience for the Hawks-Bullets game made it the NBL’s most-watched in history.

The NBL announced last month it will stream 52 games from the 2019-20 season live in the US via Facebook Watch. An additional 23 regular season games (one per round), the finals and other highlights will be available on Facebook Watch in Australia and New Zealand .

NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman said: “These are huge numbers by any measure and confirm the NBL’s status as a global entertainment product. They also reinforce our position as the best basketball league in the world outside of the U.S. National Basketball Association during what is a very exciting time for the sport in Australia and New Zealand.

“There is obviously a lot of interest in LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton ahead of next year’s NBA draft but also the NBL and basketball here more broadly. Our games are being broadcast to a potential reach 130 million people across the world, including the U.S., Europe and Asia, but our numbers are also exploding across all social media platforms.”