The NBA and ESPN and Turner (TNT) have reportedly reached an agreement for a new TV deal for the 2016-17 NBA season. According to Sports Business Journal, talks have progressed quickly and the NBA’s TV rights fees more than double in the new contract, “with ESPN and Turner combining to pay more than $US2 billion per year on average.”
Sports Business Journal also reports that ESPN is prepared to pay more than $US1 billion annually alone. Though the NBA cannot negotiate with other networks until the middle of next year when Turner and ESPN’s exclusive rights expire, the networks clearly see the exclusivity of NBA coverage as highly profitable. According to the report, both Turner and ESPN want to box out any other networks, like Fox Sports 1 or NBC Sports, from getting in on the deal.
Part of the NBA’s profitability comes from the length of its season. Regular season games run from late October to early April, playoffs last from April to June, and the NBA’s free agency frenzy in July always grabs headlines. Smaller networks like Fox Sports 1 would surely love to get in on the coverage, but ESPN and Turner are apparently willing to pay a high price for the exclusive rights.
Where the negotiations may hit a snag is online streaming. Streaming rights have historically been a part of all TV rights; however, the NFL recently sold its streaming rights separately to Verizon for $US1 billion, and the NBA supposedly wants to explore a similar deal. According to the report, such a separation would be a “nonstarter” for ESPN and Turner. In the current deal, Turner owns the rights to the NBA’s digital assets such as NBA League Pass.
Talks will continue and more details will emerge, but for the NBA, announcing a TV in the billions is a nice way to welcome a rapidly approaching season.
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