New York – The National Basketball Association has renewed its TV deals with its current partners ESPN and Turner.
The league announced the new media rights agreements at a press conference Monday morning. The agreements run through 2024-25.
The multiyear agreements are said to be worth $24 billion over the nine years, which would be more than double the current payouts from the two networks. The league's current deals are set to expire following the 2015-16 season.
“We decided to renew our agreements with Turner and Disney two years early, because they have been terrific partners and they each share responsibility for the tremendous growth and popularity of our game,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver Monday morning. The deal marks Silver’s first since taking over in February.
“To us, these new agreements demonstrate the value of live sports in a DVR world.”
Along with Turner's TNT and Disney's ESPN and ABC maintaining their TV rights, the NBA will also work with ESPN to create an over-the-top network that will air live games.
ESPN president John Skipper, in talking about the OTT service, cautioned that its still very much in the planning stages, explaining that they have a “framework” in place. With the goal of the service to air live NBA games, Skipper argued that it wouldn’t upset the current pay-TV system, especially with huge increases in payments that ESPN and Turner will make starting in 2016.
“There is no contradiction in continuing to enhance and buttress the current system by building new business and new way to reach fans,” said Skipper. “We think they are complimentary.”
Turner said that its new nine-year deal gives it 12 more live regular season games on TNT each year, plus expanded digital rights.
TNT will televise 64 regular season games a year. In addition to its Thursday night doubleheaders, TNT will air the 12 additional live games on another night of the week during the second half of the season. Turner will have NBA Opening Night, exclusive coverage of the NBA All-Star Weekend and more playoff games than any other network. Turner plans to create a new NBA Awards show and additional programming around the beginning of the season and the start of the playoffs.
Turner Sports will also maintain TV Everywhere rights that allows for all NBA content airing across Turner Broadcasting networks to be streamed live across the company's multiple digital platforms. Additionally, Turner will have enhanced digital rights to have the NBA deliver content for its Bleacher Report web service.
Turner Sports will also continue to manage NBA Digital, including NBA TV, NBA.com, NBA Mobile, NBA League Pass, WNBA.com and NBADLeague.com.
“The NBA has been a consistent and strong property for us and the brand continues to deliver on so many levels,” said David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting.
ESPN gains 10 additional games from its existing deal (plus 10 additional exclusive windows) for either its own network or ABC, bringing the regular season total to 100. ABC maintains its exclusive rights to the NBA Finals as well. The new agreements also give ESPN significant increases in their radio and international rights, as well as extend their agreement with the WNBA through 2025. ESPN will add about 750 hours per year of studio content.
As current rights holders, ESPN and Turner had an exclusive negotiating window that wasn't set to lift until the middle of next year; Fox had made it clear they wanted to grab NBA rights if they became available. With two years left on the league’s current deals, it could have looked at an even bigger payday if it had held off renewing and instead putting the rights out to the highest bidder.
Silver maintained his stance that ESPN and Turner have been great partners – the life of the agreements will keep the league’s relationship with Turner through 40 years and ESPN/ABC through 20 years. “There is no question we had other competitors who were interested in our rights,” said Silver. “I don’t think we left any money on the table.” Silver said they had talks with online video providers such as Google and Netflix, but nothing came from them.
With the agreements, the NBA is not expected to make a third national rights package available for bidders, meaning Fox would be left out in the cold. The absence of a deal with NBA would strike a major blow to Fox Sports 1; Fox executives had made acquiring NBA rights a key move for the young network. Silver mentioned that many teams have TV deals with Fox and Comcast-owned regional sports networks.
With the NFL and MLB each in the first year of their eight-year TV contracts and the NHL about to begin the fourth year of its pact, this means that the four major professional leagues are locked in well through the 2020s. The NCAA's Big Ten conference's media rights deal with ESPN expires in 2016.
Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who serves as chairman of the league’s media committee, added that the new deals have no affect on the individual teams’ local rights with regional sports networks. “We didn’t give up any rights locally,” said Leonsis. “We protected each ownership’s individual franchise.”
Last season, the five-game NBA Finals between the LeBron James-led Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs – won by the Spurs 4-1 – averaged 15.5 million viewers (many of them in the adults 18-49 demo), behind the Super Bowl, BCS National Championship Game, NCAA Final Four and men's basketball championship game this year.
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