06 October 2014

Breaking down the new NBA television contract

The much-anticipated new NBA television contract has been announced this morning. ESPN and Turner have renewed their deals in a massive nine-year, $24 million contract as first reported by the great Richard Sandomir, increasing the average annual value from around $930 million to a whopping $2.66 million with ESPN paying around $1.4 billion a year and Turner paying around $1.2 billion. A decent amount of paper I would say.

So what does this new deal entail for all parties? Let's break it down.

TNT will retain their coverage of Thursday night doubleheaders, Opening Night, All-Star Weekend and continuing to manage NBA TV, NBA.com and NBA League Pass. They will also continue their extensive playoffs coverage as they will alternate the Conference Finals between the two conferences with ESPN.

What is new for TNT is that they will air 12 additional regular season games late in the season on a different night of the week from their Thursday coverage, a new NBA Awards show and increased digital rights for Turner property Bleacher Report, including streaming rights to TNT telecasts, original NBA content and more content for the Team Stream App.

ESPN will continue to air games on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays on ESPN, with Sundays on ABC. They also retain the NBA Finals on ABC, extensive playoff coverage on both ESPN and ABC, including a Conference Final, Christmas Day broadcasts and the NBA Draft, plus the WNBA. ESPN Radio will also remain the exclusive radio broadcaster of the league.

What is new for them is that they (or ABC) will air ten additional regular season games with the maximum number of teams increased, ten more exclusive windows, a greatly increased amount of studio programming (including increased highlights), and coverage of the D-League and the Summer League. But perhaps the biggest change for ESPN is an agreement for a a new over-the-top digital channel which the league will hold equity in, with further details announced later on.

In other words, not much significant change despite a significant increase in the rights fees, and getting this deal done a couple of years early. What gives?

Both ESPN and Turner view the NBA to be a significant property, particularly for the latter, and were going to do anything possible to hold off another partner from getting in the mix to replace one of them or create a third package, namely Fox. Everybody knew that Fox, and to a lesser extent NBC, was going to aggressive bid for some piece of the NBA and both Turner and ESPN moved aggressively to keep them out. Now Fox, which was hoping to get some NBA rights to bolster Fox Sports 1, is left on the outside with only one major rights property, the Big Ten, coming up on the horizon.

This rights negotiation could have resulted in some major changes but it looks like NBA fans will be getting more of the same. But now the impact will likely lead to a major increase in the salary cap, something that will affect every NBA franchise.

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