The National Basketball Association set its media roster into the next decade on Monday, with the first rights deal under new commissioner Adam Silver delivering plenty of green.
The pro basketball league announced the renewals at Saint Regis Hotel in Manhattan at 10 a.m. on Oct. 6, with Silver joined by ESPN president and Disney Media Networks co-chairman John Skipper, Turner Broadcasting System president David Levy and Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards and chairman of the NBA's media committee.
Incumbents ESPN and Turner Broadcasting System, both within their exclusive negotiating windows, retained their rights with increases that more than doubled their current annual outlays. Under the eight-year pacts that run through the end of the 2015-16 season, ESPN has paid an average of $485 million per season, about $40 million more than Turner’s $445 million.
Turner announced its new nine-year extension, adding 12 regular-season contests per season to 64 games and enhancing digital rights. ESPN did likewise, saying its new nine-year NBA deal enhanced ESPN's rights and added 10 more regular-season games per season to ESPN or ABC, to a total of 100. The worlwide leader will also steer an over-the-top service in which the leage will retain an equity position.
Given the scarcity of major properties and the value of live sports from a Nielsen perspective, the NBA fetched a steep renewal increase. Reports had suggested the new deal will cost each player some $1 billion annually over a new eight- or nine-year term. On Sunday night, The New York Times reported the deal was worth $24 billion over a nine-year term.
With DirecTV and the NFL extending their Sunday Ticket out of market package on Oct. 1, the NBA deal will wrap up media rights for all of the major pro sports leagues for some time. The only other significant package that may become open: the Big Ten Network, whose first tier rights expire after the 2016-17 academic year.
There have been reports that there could be a sharing of the NBA Finals, which have been airing on ABC since 2003, with TNT getting into the mix. The championship round will continue to air on ABC under the new pact.
Another point of schedule interest could be Thursday nights. Long the home of a doubleheader, TNT's exclusive NBA telecasts could encounter early-season ratings softness should the NFL elect to extend its Thursday Night Football package to a broadcast partner for a full season.
In addition to its Thursday doubleheaders, TNT has been airing much of the All-Star Weekend festivities including the game itself, plus the majority of the playoff action, highlighted by a conference final
ESPN’s package encompasses Wednesday and Friday night action, playoffs, alternating the conference finals with TNT, and The Finals, which run on broadcaster, ABC.