Sunday October 1, 2023

NBA Eyes Midseason Tourney, $75B Media Deal

  • The NBA is pushing the idea of a midseason tournament as it seeks to triple the value of its broadcast rights.
  • The league is currently on a nine-year deal with Disney and WarnerMedia.
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The NBA wants to triple the value of its media rights — and hopes a midseason tournament will spice up the package.

The league is drawing inspiration from European soccer as it outlines the midseason contest.

  • Current discussions revolve around an eight-team tournament with three single-elimination rounds.
  • Players would be incentivized with a reward of $1 million per player on the winning team
  • The WNBA is piloting the concept this season with a $500,00 prize pool. The tournament will be sponsored by Google and broadcast by Amazon.

On the cusp of its next set of broadcast deals, the NBA is targeting a $75 billion price tag over nine years, an impressive leap from the $24 billion in deals it’s currently locked into with Disney and WarnerMedia. The league is also in the midst of a five-year, $1.5 billion deal with Tencent to stream games in China.

NBA broadcasts on ABC, ESPN, and TNT averaged 1.32 million viewers this season, down 25% from the 1.75 million average of the 2018-2019 season.

A midseason tournament could raise the stakes and help reverse that downward trend, but the league will need buy-ins from 20 of its 30 teams and the NBPA to proceed. This year’s play-in tournament — another format experiment — was a runaway ratings success.

However, teams are wary of trimming the regular season to 78 games from 82 to accommodate the midseason contest. Pre-pandemic regular season games each brought in $2.5-$4 million for the home team.

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