Saturday, July 20, 2024

NBA Finalizes Media Rights Deals With ESPN, NBC, Amazon

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The NBA has finalized deals with ESPN, NBC, and Amazon Prime, reaching agreements to make the three broadcasters its media rights partners for the next decade-plus, reports Andrew Marchand of The Athletic. According to Marchand, the 11-year contracts – which will go into effect with the 2025/26 season – will be worth a total of approximately $76 billion.

These agreements had been anticipated for quite some time, but they still don’t entirely close the book on the NBA’s latest round of media rights negotiations.

The next step, Marchand explains, will be for the league’s Board of Governors to officially approve the deals with the three prospective TV partners. That’s viewed as a formality and is expected to happen when the board meets in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Once the Board of Governors signs off on the contracts, they’ll be sent to TNT Sports, the NBA’s longtime media partner, which was unable to agree to terms with the league during this round of negotiations. TNT’s previous deal with the NBA reportedly includes some form of matching rights, so the broadcaster will have five days to decide whether it wants to attempt to exercise those rights.

If TNT passes on that opportunity, the NBA is expected to officially announce its new media rights deal prior to the start of the Olympics later this month, according to Marchand.

If TNT opts to match one of the offers – the expectation is that Amazon’s package would be the target, per Marchand – it could extend the process. The expectation is that there could be a legal battle over whether TNT’s matching rights would be valid, given the differences between what a cable channel like TNT and a streaming giant like Amazon could offer the league.

Marchand provides some additional details on the broadcast plans, assuming ESPN, NBC, and Amazon ultimately move forward as the NBA’s partners:

  • ESPN would slightly reduce its total number of games, from about 100 to 80 per season. During the NFL season, ESPN would air games on Wednesday and Sundays, with ABC getting Saturday night games. ESPN would also air Friday games after the NFL season concludes.
  • NBC would air Sunday night games after the NFL season ends, emulating its “Sunday Night Football” broadcasts. NBC is also expected to broadcast games on Tuesday throughout the season, with Monday games on Peacock, its streaming service.
  • Amazon Prime Video is expected to air games on Thursday nights after the NFL season wraps up, similar to its “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts during the NFL season. Amazon will also likely broadcast games on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the season.
  • Amazon will be the home of the NBA’s in-season tournament
  • All three broadcast partners will air playoff games. Amazon and NBC will each have a conference finals every other year, while ESPN will have one every year. ESPN/ABC will also get the NBA Finals each season.

ESPN is expected to pay about $2.6 billion per season for its rights, while NBC will pay $2.5 billion and Amazon will pay $1.8 billion, per Marchand.

The NBA’s previous media rights agreement with TNT and ESPN, which began in the 2016/17 season, was worth $24 billion over nine seasons. The new money that came in as a result of that deal generated a significant salary cap spike in 2016 (approximately 35%), but the NBA and NBPA have taken steps to ensure that won’t happen again this time around, with annual cap increases capped at 10%.

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