ESPN and Turner Sports officially announced the details for their new television contracts with the NBA on Monday morning.  The new deals begin with the 2016-2017 season and will run through the 2024-2025 season, locking the current rights partners in for the next decade.  Reports peg the new deals at almost TRIPLE the amount of the current contracts, with the NBA projected to pull in a cool $24 billion over nine seasons.  To put it in perspective, that’s over 1100 Joe Johnson contracts.

Any way you put it, the NBA hit the jackpot, even exceeding the increase in revenue other major leagues have received in recent years.

As far as the new contracts with ESPN and Turner go, much of what is already in place will remain the same.  ABC will remain the exclusive home of the NBA Finals.  The two networks will alternate televising one of the conference finals each season.  ESPN/ABC keeps their Christmas Day smorgasbord while Turner will remain the home for All-Star festivities.  Turner Sports also remains in operation of the NBA’s media portals including NBATV and  ESPN will have their broadcast windows on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays (ABC) and Turner will continue with their Thursday night doubleheaders.

As far as any new elements go, both networks will see an expansion of games for the regular season and a couple of new intriguing innovations.

What’s New for Turner

– 12 more regular season games to bring their total to 64 games.  New games will be late in the season on a new night of the week (i.e. not the traditional Thursday window).  This could have been part of a new package that a third network like Fox Sports 1 would have hoped to carve out.

– Increased digital rights for Bleacher Report including the streaming of NBA on TNT games, highlights and added content for the Team Stream App, and original NBA-related content.  Bleacher Report is now a major part of television rights deals – welcome to the new age.

– A new NBA Awards show.  That should be an adventure!

What’s New for ESPN

– An agreement in place with the league for a new over-the-top service to be announced at a later date.  Depending on what ESPN and the NBA have in store, this could be one of the most significant aspects of the new contract.

– 1o additional regular season games that bring the network’s total to 100 during the season.  The maximum number of national television appearances have also been increased so expect to see plenty of the Wizards once Kevin Durant moves to DC and less of the Milwaukee Bucks.

– 750 hours of new NBA programming throughout the year and into the offseason.  ESPN is promising to make the NBA a year-round sport with this new dedicated coverage, which it is already, but somehow the network will find more room for the Association in its endless array of platforms.

– Increased highlights across ESPN platforms.

– WNBA, Summer League, and D-League rights.

The most fascinating element of these new contracts is just how early ESPN and Turner were able to get the deals done.  These new rights won’t go into effect for another two seasons.  Both networks are paying an astronomical fee for basketball rights, but the NBA is a bedrock property for both ESPN and Turner and falls in the “have to keep at all costs” category.  For Turner, it represents the continuation of what will now be a 40 year relationship with the league.  For ESPN, it represents the strengthening of their major winter sports tentpole.

The size and scope of these new contracts also explain a few other things that have happened recently.  Now we know why LeBron James only signed a 2 year contract with the Cavaliers.  With all the fresh TV revenue flooding into the league, the salary cap will go up and LeBron will get paid whenever he signs his new max contract.

Also, now we know why ESPN didn’t make a more aggressive play to keep the World Cup – they had to save an extra few billion for this new NBA contract.  With these dollar amounts rocketing through the roof, not even ESPN can get everything they want anymore.

ESPN is spending $3.3 billion per year on just NBA and NFL rights alone with the advent of this new contract.  That fact says it all about the exponential explosion in sports rights fees.

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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