The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC broadcast network and ESPN cable service have
entered the National Basketball Association TV-rights sweepstakes, placing a bid
Monday in the range of NBC's and Turner Sports' current $2.6 billion deal,
sources close to the situation said.
The ABC/ESPN proposal likely encompass cable games on ESPN, ESPN2 and
Disney's recently acquired ABC Family channel, sources said.
Turner Sports' and NBC's exclusive negotiation period with the NBA expired
last week without the parties agreeing on an extension of the current four-year
deal, which ends after the 2001-02 season.
Sources said Turner's and NBC's bid was less than the current $2.6 billion
deal, but it provided additional incentives for the league.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass would not comment on the matter, saying only that the
league would not 'negotiate through the media.'
Representatives from ABC or ESPN could not be reached for comment at press
Turner executives have said the programmer would like to renew its current
$890 million deal with the NBA, but it would not break the bank in doing so.
Turner was also looking to shrink its current three-game-per-week schedule.
Turner Sports parent AOL Time Warner Inc. had offered to create a new NBA
channel, possibly replacing AOL's CNN/SI sports-news service.
Turner Sports, however, is still in the running for the package. 'We're still
having discussions with the NBA,' senior vice president of public relations Greg