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NBA deputy commissioner on avoiding a ratings plunge

How the NBA plans to deal with ratings and player activism

The NBA is planning to kick off the season with high ratings by paying attention to how viewers are consuming content, NBA Deputy Commissioner and COO Mark Tatum says.

"The way that consumers are consuming content is very different," Tatum told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street. "So one of the things that we're looking to do is make sure that however consumers consume content, that we're there."

Tatum acknowledged how the landscape for streaming games is evolving, but says the NBA is keeping up with a couple of new ways to consume basketball content.

"This year, we are creating more than three times the amount of content on Snapchat and launching a Snapchat Discover Channel," Tatum said. "We've created live programming for Twitter, where we're going to have an exclusive pregame show for the first time ever, the first league to do this. And we're going to have weekly games that are broadcast in virtual reality live, starting with this Thursday night with San Antonio at Sacramento."

According to Tatum, last year, NBA ratings were up in every single network and the past NBA Finals showdown between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers was the most watched finals in ABC history.

However, recent NFL ratings have people questioning whether or not the NBA could suffer the same fate. Many have pointed to the elections, the growing cord-cutting trend, poor officiating and social protests by franchise players like Colin Kaepernick as the reasons for the tanking NFL ratings.

When asked specifically on how the NBA, which has strict rules for standing during the anthem, may address potential protests, Tatum responded that the organization encourages its players to focus on building stronger and safer communities, rather than engaging in symbolic gestures.

"We encourage our players to take a stand on social issues and issues that are important to them," Tatum said. "Our players have demonstrated that they have done that over time. And so one of the things that we've been doing with our players is working collectively with them on things that we can do to build safer and stronger communities. We've created specific programs that include elected officials, that include local law enforcement, youth from the communities and we're having these conversations and discussions around what we can do with these communities."

Also, unlike the NFL, the NBA has wider international appeal with over a hundred foreign-born players in the league and millions worldwide tuning in. This year, the NBA is planning to host two regular season games in Mexico City in January featuring the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.

"Basketball is a global sport. Our games are broadcast in 215 countries in 49 different languages," Tatum said. "For us, the growth of the global game is incredible. We see international as a huge opportunity for us."

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Tatum said the NBA's players are focused on building stronger and safe communities, rather than engaging in symbolic gestures. An earlier version misstated this fact.

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