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NBA extends TV deals with ESPN, TNT

NEW YORK — The NBA and its television partners couldn't wait to extend their contracts.

The league renewed its deals with ESPN and TNT even though two seasons remain on the old ones. With potential competition from Fox looming, both networks were willing to pay generously to secure the rights long term.

The NBA's annual revenue from the agreements will increase from $930 million to more than $2.6 billion, according to a person familiar with the terms. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the league did not announce financial figures.

"We ultimately made a decision that this was the right time to go," Commissioner Adam Silver said at a news conference Monday. "These are extraordinarily healthy deals financially."

The contracts will run an additional nine years through the 2024-25 season. The previous eight-year agreements end after 2015-16.

"We believe at the end of the deal it will feel inexpensive," ESPN President John Skipper said. "It's hard to imagine."

What was painful to imagine for both companies was life without the NBA.

"Each year the playoffs help TNT win nights of television during all-important May sweeps," said David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting System.

The basics won't change: The NBA Finals remain on ABC, ESPN's broadcast partner. ESPN/ABC and TNT will continue to split the conference finals.

Broadcasting rights fees have been skyrocketing across all sports as live events become increasingly valuable to advertisers. Few viewers will DVR an NBA game, which means they can't fast-forward through the commercials.

"There's never been a better time to be an owner of an NBA franchise — or, frankly, any professional sports team," said Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, chairman of the league's media committee.

Players may remember that comment when they negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement with owners, which could happen in 2017. Owners insisted they needed a new financial structure during the 2011 talks and emerged with a deal that slashed the players' guarantee of basketball revenues.

"The whole thing that went on with the last negotiation process was the owners were telling us they were losing money. There's no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now," Cleveland's LeBron James said. "After we continue to see teams selling for billions of dollars, being purchased for $200 million, signing for $550, $750 and $2 billion and now (Mikhail) Prokhorov is possibly selling his majority stake in the Nets for over $1 billion. That will not fly with us this time."