NBA re-ups with ESPN, Turner

Bulls-Pacers game. (Getty)
Bulls-Pacers game. (Getty)

Fox shut out of rights

The NBA maintained the status quo when it came to the league’s television rights as both Turner Sports and ESPN renewed their respective deals for a whopping nine years, bringing in a total of $24 billion, with yearly payments increasing from $930 million to just over $2.6 billion a year, according to the New York Times.

When the deal expires in 2024, Turner would have carried the NBA for 40 consecutive years – dating back to the WTBS years in the 1980’s, which also saw a huge number of Atlanta Hawks games (Turner owned the team at the time.) ESPN, which carried a package of games in the early 1980’s, has been with the league since 2002.

For Turner, the deal gives them twelve more regular-season games , up to 64 a year; increased digital rights for TNT games and more digital content for Bleacher Report, a Turner-owned sports website. Turner retains exclusive rights to Thursday doubleheaders and opening night; All-Star Weekend; exclusive rights to one conference final; and managing the NBA’s digital properties, NBA TV, and NBA League Pass.

For ESPN, the deal gives them and the NBA the rights to create a digital TV package to be sold over-the-top (directly to consumers); develop new studio programming to run on ESPN’s family of networks; and is adding ten more games to the package, giving them a total of 100 regular-season contests. ESPN retains rights to one conference final; the NBA Finals (which it will continue to air on ABC); the NBA Draft; the NBA Draft Lottery; and extends rights to WNBA games until 2025.

ESPN also gains additional rights, including the increased use of NBA footage across all of ESPN’s linear and digital properties; Spanish-language audio rights through ESPN Deportes; and others.

More importantly, the deal extensions keeps rival broadcast and cable channels out of the picture – notably Fox Sports 1, who hoped it would get a piece of the NBA pie to add to its baseball, soccer, and college basketball coverage. Indeed, that was the reason both ESPN and Turner wanted to renew their contracts well ahead of the 2016 expiration date of the current deal, according to ESPN President John Skipper.

Both parties were satisfied with the ratings, so it wasn’t an issue. And live sports programming is must-have programming these days in the DVR era.

As for Fox, it would have to wait a least nearly another decade for another crack at pro hoops. But it does have college hoops from the Big East, Pac-12, Big 12, and Conference USA – with a handful of those games winding up on parent network Fox.