|Tuesday, January 22
NBA TV deal moves to ABC, ESPN
ESPN.com news services
The NBA has a new home and some new wrinkles in its television contract for at least the next six seasons.|
ABC, ESPN, TNT and a new national cable sports network jointly owned by the NBA and AOL Time Warner all will show NBA games starting with the 2002-03 season. The total deal is worth a reported $4.6 billion, and leaves NBC without the NBA for the first time in 12 years.
The deals are worth $765 million a year, a 25 percent increase from the $615 million the league made annually in TV rights under the four-year, $2.46 billion deals with NBC and Turner Sports that expire after this season.
In the new packages, ESPN and ABC are paying $400 million a year on average, while TNT pays about $365 million, NBA commissioner David Stern said.
It represents the smallest percentage increase in the NBA's TV rights fees since at least 1983. Since then, the league has more than doubled its national TV revenue three times -- including the expiring deal -- and received a nearly 50 percent increase in the only other contract. Those previous deals were all for four years.
"This is a very substantial increase in a turbulent marketplace. We couldn't be happier," Stern said. "It's relatively easy to go from $100 million to $200 million. But you necessarily begin to slow down on your rate of increase as your numbers get higher."
The NBA Finals will be on ABC during prime time, the conference finals will be split between TNT and ESPN, and the All-Star Game will be on TNT.
NBA teams received $23 million per season from the current NBC deal. If the estimates on Turner's portion of the deal are close to correct, teams would receive $27 million per season, starting next year.
ESPN and ESPN2 will show 75 regular-season games, mostly on Wednesday and Friday nights as well as holidays. Many of the Fridays will be doubleheaders. ESPN will also show 24 playoff games, including one of the conference finals. ESPN2 will have a Tuesday night show with cut-ins to live action throughout the league.
ESPN will also show the NBA Draft on the Thursday following the completion of the NBA Finals, plus a special NBA Draft lottery show.
ABC will show as many as 15 regular-season games, beginning on Christmas Day and resuming with Sunday afternoons in late January/early February. ABC's postseason schedule will including up to 12 games, including the NBA Finals.
TNT will show 52 regular-season games -- including 48 in Thursday night doubleheaders and an opening-night doubleheader. TNT also will show the All-Star Game, All-Star Saturday events and 45 playoff games, including one conference semifinal.
The yet-unnamed new cable network will show 96 regular-season games, plus selected playoff matchups.
"For the first time in television history, one network -- ESPN -- will now feature all four major professional sports leagues," ESPN president George Bodenheimer said in a news release. "We're thrilled to expand our relationship with David Stern and the NBA, an outstanding media franchise."
"We are delighted that two of the most significant media entities in the world have joined with the NBA to bring the greatest game played by the world's best athletes to fans everywhere," NBA commissioner Stern said in a news release.
The deal also brings NBA Inside Stuff to ABC on Saturday mornings. It will also air on ABC Family later in the week. ABC Family will also have postgame shows after each NBA Finals game.
"This agreement goes to the strength of our company," Walt Disney Company chairman Michael Eisner said in a statement.
The NBA has confirmed that it has had discussions about increasing the length of the first round of the playoffs from a best-of-five- to a best-of-seven-game series. However, for any such change to take place, the players' association would have to agree to the adjustment as well. That has not happened.
The NBA and ESPN have also reached separate agreements extending and expanding relationships with ESPN Radio, ESPN Classic, ESPN.com and SportsTicker. ESPN.com will expand its video highlight rights and increased real-time game data, in addition to expanded fantasy game offerings.
ESPN Radio will continue as the exclusive national radio home of the NBA, covering regular-season, playoff and NBA Finals games, in addition to the NBA Draft and All-Star festivities.
AOL Time Warner, through Turner Sports, extends its relationship with the NBA to 24 years with the deal. ABC last televised the NBA from 1962-73. ESPN had NBA games for two seasons (1982-84).
Information from the Associated Press is included in this report