The NBA’s current cable TV and broadcast TV rights deals do not end until after the 2015-16 season, but as the playoffs are heating up and the sport’s television popularity is as high as it’s been since Jordan’s heyday, the Association is ready to get its next deals in place well ahead of time. Currently, the league gets about $930 million annually for television rights, a twenty percent increase over the league’s previous contracts. They’ll be looking for a much higher increase this time, when negotiations begin after the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.
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The league plans to wait for its playoffs to end in June before turning its focus to the media package, sources said. While those informal talks are likely to take place, a formal deal is not expected until next year, when current NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver replaces David Stern as commissioner.
The NBA would not comment on its coming discussions, but the league’s TV business was an agenda topic at the NBA’s April 19 board of governors meeting.
“There was a very lengthy report on TV matters,” Stern said in a briefing after the board meeting.
The league is looking to take advantage of a sports rights marketplace that has resulted in record rights fees over the past three years, with an increasing number of sports networks chasing a dwindling amount of live sports rights.
Typically, big sports properties start TV talks roughly a year before contracts come to an end. The NBA is deciding to test the waters now, with the cost of sports rights at an all-time high, timing Fox Sports co-President Randy Freer alluded to at last month’s World Congress of Sports conference.
“If I’m the NBA, I’m probably feeling pretty good,” Freer said. “But I’m probably also looking at maybe doing my deal now because I don’t know what’s going to happen in 2015 or 2016.”
Timing is key. There’s a sense in some circles that this record run of sports rights has created a bubble that could burst. But there are no signs any kind of downturn is imminent.
Last year, Major League Baseball signed $12.4 billion worth of media rights deals with ESPN, Fox and Turner for an eight-year span, more than doubling the average annual media rights revenue from its previous deal. A few months earlier, the NFL renewed its broadcast network rights deals at a 60 percent increase. These deals were struck amid a run of deals in the college market that brought record windfalls to the ACC, Pac-12 and BCS.
The NBA can similarly expect to get an increase in its deal.
More on this story as it develops from the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.