NBA extends television deals

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Monday, October 6, 2014

ESPN and TNT retained the rights to show NBA games for the next nine years in a new deal announced Monday.

The deal takes effect starting with the 2016-17 season and increases ESPN's television, digital, highlights, data, audio and international NBA rights. Games will continue to air on ESPN and TNT through the 2024-25 season. The announcement was made by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and ESPN president John Skipper.

"With these new agreements our passionate fans will continue to benefit from the exceptional coverage provided by [our partners," Silver said at a news conference in New York.

ABC will remain the exclusive network for the NBA Finals and both ESPN and ABC will combine for up to 44 postseason games, including the conference finals. ESPN will continue to air the draft, draft combine and draft lottery.

The New York Times reports the deal's value at more than $2.5 billion per year. ESPN's current relationship covering NBA games on television began in 2002, when the network won the rights from NBC. TNT has been covering the NBA since 1988.

"The NBA has never been more popular and it continues to grow under Adam's leadership," Skipper said Monday in a statement. "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."

Turner Sports will add 12 games to its regular-season schedule. Turner will continue with Thursday night doubleheaders, the opening night games and the All-Star Game. Turner also received additional multimedia rights.

Silver also said Monday the new television deal would lead to a "substantial increase" in team salary caps. It is unclear at this point specifically how the increase will be implemented. Silver suggested the league and the NBA Players Association would look into "smoothing" the increase -- or spreading it over several seasons.

Some players, including Cleveland's LeBron James, have structured their contracts to become free agents in summer 2016 in order to take advantage of cap increase. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant also will have an opportunity to test free agency in 2016.

"It will have a profound effect [on the salary cap)] and I'm sure the union has already begun studying it just as we've begun studying it," Silver said.

Highlights of the enhanced rights in the deal:

An established framework for ESPN and the league to negotiate the launch of a new "over-the-top" content offering on the mobile platform. Details will be announced at a later date;

10 additional regular-season games for ESPN or ABC, bringing the regular-season total to 100;

10 more exclusive regular-season windows;

Increased team appearances to showcase the most popular teams and most compelling matchups more times throughout the season;

Live, national rights to summer league and D-League games across ESPN entities;

As part of the new agreement, ESPN will substantially increase its NBA-focused programming with 750 new hours of NBA content on linear and digital platforms for a significant year-round presence for the league on ESPN;

ESPN International, in Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, will carry significantly more exclusive regular-season and playoff games on ESPN platforms, including expanded weekend windows during the regular season, increased first- and second-round playoff coverage and the NBA conference finals and NBA Finals (including exclusivity in Australia and New Zealand).

Also, ESPN announced a multiyear extension for WNBA rights through 2025, which will include increased in-progress highlights on linear and digital platforms.

"The new television and media deals are good news for all of the stakeholders in the business of the NBA," union executive director Michele Roberts said in a statement. "Although we have seen strong revenue growth and significant increases in franchise values over the past three years, it is clear that the league is now entering a period of unprecedented revenue growth. Our job will be to ensure that the players receive their fair share of the results of their efforts and that we do everything possible to maintain the growth and popularity of the game."

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