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Monday, May 20, 2024

NBA Appears to Be on Track to Double Media-Rights Fee Intake

  • New deals could easily pay the league $6 billion annually.
  • ESPN and TNT currently hand over roughly $2.7 billion per year.
Michael Laughlin-USA TODAY Sports

As more NBA teams continue sealing their places in the second round of the playoffs, the league appears to be getting closer to a win of its own—securing its next set of media deals and a substantial rights fee increase in the process.

Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are currently paying the NBA rightly $2.7 billion combined annually to air games on ESPN and TNT, respectively. Nothing new has been officially agreed to or signed, but already, factoring in the reported values of potential deals on the table, the league can likely expect to at least double its intake. Disney is on track to renew for an average of roughly $2.6 billion per year, and NBC is prepared to bid $2.5 billion annually, according to The Wall Street Journal. WBD has the right to match a rival bid if it chooses, as does Disney.

Although no financial details of Amazon’s potential deal with the NBA have been reported, it’s safe to assume that the streamer would pay enough annually to get the league well over $5.4 billion, which would be double its current deals, and potentially closer to $6 billion, if not even more.

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Such an increase for the NBA would be impressive, given the growing disruption in the current sports media landscape.

Earlier this year, the College Football Playoff struck an extension with ESPN that will be worth $1.3 billion a year beginning in the 2026–27 season. While that is more than double the $608 million that the network has been paying, the new deal is for 11 postseason games as part of an expanded 12-team playoff. That means four more game broadcasts than the seven (three playoff, four other New Year’s Six bowl games) that were included in ESPN’s CFP package.

Last fall, NASCAR struck new media-rights deals, expanding from two partners for its flagship Cup Series to four, similar to the NBA’s seemingly going from two to at least three. The $1.1 billion NASCAR will bring in annually, starting next year, is a 40% increase over its current deals.

With cord-cutting continuing to challenge the entire media industry, the profitability of streaming still something of an open question, and most major U.S. sports rights locked up for the next several years, the NBA rights negotiation has been widely seen as something of a litmus test on the health of the overall market. Thus far, it appears the league is showing its strength, and then some.

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