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The NBA will take in $24 billion in rights fees over nine years from Turner and ESPN-ABC. It is the latest multibillion-dollar sports rights deal and once again underscores the value of live sports in a continually fractured and time-shifted media landscape.
Announced Monday, the new deals with Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting and The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC and ESPN, continue the league’s partnership with both companies. Though Fox Sports was said to have made an aggressive bid for the NBA to help shore up its still nascent cable network Fox Sports 1. The new pacts run from the start of the 2016-17 season through the 2024-25 season.
Under the deal, ABC/ESPN and Turner will broadcast more regular-season games: 12 more on TNT each year, bringing its total to 64, and 10 more on ABC/ESPN, bringing their total to 100.
TNT’s 12 additional games will air during the second half of the season on another night of the week than the network’s traditional Thursday night doubleheaders. The deal also will give TNT more NBA playoff coverage than any other network, including live first-round coverage, exclusive second-round telecasts and one Conference Finals series (alternating between the Eastern and Western Conference each year).
ABC will also remain the exclusive home of the NBA Finals.
TNT will also debut the first-ever NBA awards show, set to air annually at the end of the season, and will introduce other ancillary events around opening night, All-Star week and the NBA playoffs.
The agreement also gives Turner enhanced digital rights to NBA content for Bleacher Report, its Team Stream app and Turner’s social media accounts. Turner Sports will also maintain TV Everywhere streaming rights to the NBA content that airs across Turner Broadcasting’s networks.
ESPN will also be granted enhanced digital rights to NBA content for ESPN.com and its WatchESPN app.
ESPN and the NBA have also established a framework for a new over-the-top offering, in which the league would receive an equity interest. Details about that will be announced at a future date.
Turner Sports will also continue to manage the NBA’s digital assets, and Turner gets expanded digital media rights and sales opportunities.
“The Walt Disney Company and Turner Broadcasting share responsibility for the growing popularity and interest the NBA enjoys, and we are thrilled to extend our partnerships,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “With these new agreements, our fans will continue to benefit from the outstanding NBA coverage and programming provided by ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV and their digital platforms.”
David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting System, added: “This is a significant deal for our company and we are pleased to continue our long-standing partnership with the NBA, its fans, owners and players. The agreement locks in some of the most valuable, original, premium live sports programming that we’ll continue to monetize across TNT and all other platforms within our extensive portfolio and will help further grow our businesses into the next decade.”
ESPN president John Skipper said: “The NBA has never been more popular and it continues to grow under Adam’s leadership. By acquiring significantly more NBA content for both existing and yet-to-be created platforms, we will establish a vibrant, year-round NBA presence for fans. For ESPN, this agreement continues our fruitful, longstanding relationship with the NBA and bolsters what is already the sports industry’s most impressive and impactful collection of media rights.”
Both pacts, which had been anticipated, were originally reported by the The Wall Street Journal, which added that the NBA is planning to launch an online video service with ESPN that would stream regular-season games live.
The new deals represent a near three-fold increase over the current pacts; ESPN currently pays $485 million a year, while Turner pays $445 million. The new agreements will have ESPN shelling out $1.4 billion annually while Turner will pay $1.2 billion. That brings the NBA into line with the rights fees commanded by the NFL, long regarded as professional sports’ most valuable league. In 2011, the NFL signed new deals with CBS, Fox and NBC worth $28 billion over nine years, representing a 60 percent increase.
ABC and ESPN will also continue to air WNBA games and feature enhanced in-progress highlight reels for those games on its digital platforms under a new deal. ESPN’s networks will also air at least 20 NBA development and summer league games, starting with the 2016-17 season.
ESPN will also continue to be the exclusive home to the NBA Draft.
Oct. 6, 7:43 a.m. This story has been updated with the official announcement, details of the new deals.
Oct. 6, 1:27 p.m. This story has been updated with context about the value of sports rights.
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