NBA deal goes beyond TV<br />

New-media rights key to extension

NEW YORK -- The NBA extended its national TV package with ESPN/ABC and TNT on Wednesday, including a bevy of new-media rights in one of the clearest signs yet of the growing power of digital media in the sports world.

Sources said the combined rights deal was worth about $930 million a year for the eight-year life of the pact, good for a total of $7.44 billion. That's up significantly from the $765 million-a-year, $4.6 billion deal the NBA signed with ESPN/ABC and TNT six years ago that included TV rights only (that deal expires after next season.)

The extension runs through the 2015-16 season.

Sources said the increases were in the 20% range over the life of the deal, with the increases coming primarily because of the digital assets.

And it's likely the first time that linear TV and digital platforms have been packaged together so comprehensively by a big sports league. ESPN said it was the most expansive package of rights it has ever negotiated from a major league.

"It's really a prototype for sports deals going forward," ESPN president George Bodenheimer said.

For ESPN, it means that NBA games and other content will be a part of more than 17 outlets for the company, including ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 and the rights to simulcast full games live on ESPN360.com and ESPN Mobile TV. For TNT, it spells a continuation of its critically acclaimed NBA regular-season and playoff coverage as well as the rights to simulcast online its Thursday night doubleheader.

"This is both an important broadcasting deal, but as our fans seem to experience us in different ways ... what you're seeing is the movement of the rights to follow the fan and enhance the fan's experience," NBA commissioner David Stern said.

That includes for ESPN and TNT the right to stream games live, delayed and on-demand on various company platforms, plus other content. TNT will be able to offer such enhanced coverage as different camera angles, statistic streams and highlights as well as studio show content for broadband.

ESPN executive vp content John Skipper and Turner Sports president David Levy said digital rights were key parts of the deal.

"It's critical to us, and we increasingly prefer to position it as we are buying content; we are not buying television and distributing it over all the platforms," Skipper said. "That has been our posture in the last several negotiations. ... We were able to structure the most flexible, comprehensive deal yet so we can take the games and put them on any platform."

Levy said Stern and the NBA get credit for recognizing and being ahead of the changing media landscape.

"The need today is to extend our brand and content beyond linear television," Levy said.

For Turner, it's the first time the company has gotten such a comprehensive deal. NASCAR offered some new-media rights in its deal with Turner, but Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour keep them separate. NASCAR.com and PGATour.com are managed by Turner.

TNT will televise 52 regular-season games in primetime, including 48 as part of its exclusive doubleheaders plus the opening night, All-Star Game and as many as 52 playoff games. It will exclusively cover the conference semifinals and one conference finals every year. TNT also will see an expansion in its exclusive games, from six exclusive games on Thursday night to seven exclusives for a team.

ESPN's telecasts are divvied up among ABC, ESPN and ESPN2. ABC will have at least 15 regular-season games starting Christmas Day, with at least 15 postseason games, including the best-of-seven Finals. ESPN and ESPN2 will have 75 regular-season games, mostly Wednesdays and Friday nights. ESPN will be the home of as many as 29 playoff games, including the conference semifinals and one conference final.
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