NBA Suspends Season, Impacting ESPN, TNT

The National Basketball Association said it was suspending its season after Wednesday night’s games after a player preliminarily tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The decision leaves the Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN and AT&T TNT with big holes in their schedules. NBA programming draws high ratings and millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

“We have a long-standing relationship with the NBA and we’re supportive of the actions being taken to help protect the health and well-being of everyone involved. We’ll partner closely with league officials to evaluate and determine next steps at the appropriate time," AT&T's Turner Sports said in a statement.

The NBA had been weighing playing its games with no fans in the stands in order to limit the spread of the virus. The Golden State Warriors were the first team to announce that it planned to play in empty arenas.

On Wednesday, the game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder was canceled because the the Jazz player testing positive. The player, reportedly All-Star Rudy Gobert, was not in the arena, the league said.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of Wednesday's schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the Coronavirus pandemic,” the league said in a statement.

The National Hockey League on Wednesday issued a statement saying it was  aware of the NBA’s decision. “The NHL is continuing to consult with medical experts and is evaluating the options. We expect to have a further update tomorrow,” the league said.

Some college basketball tournaments have been cancelled and the NCAA is planning to run its March Madness with only essential personnel in the arenas.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.