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NBA extends media deals with ESPN/ABC & TNT


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New NBA TV deal incorporates burgeoning technology


Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle


Disney and Turner Sports unveiled television contract extensions Wednesday with the NBA that, by the time they expire with the 2015-16 season, could be almost as significant for Internet, wireless, broadband and video-on-demand properties as for traditional broadcast rights.


In return for checks that, according to some sources, will top out at $930 million a year, the NBA is giving the networks a blank check to develop technologies and to use NBA content to leverage them as profit centers.


NBA commissioner David Stern predicted the networks will develop "an array of statistical, archival, biographical and replay camera self-direction options that are now seen as futuristic but will seen to be commonplace" by 2016.


Traditional broadcast components will remain much the same, although the networks will have exclusive coverage of conference semifinals in addition to the conference finals and NBA Finals.


TNT will air 52 regular-season games each season, plus the All-Star Game and up to 52 playoff games. ESPN and ESPN2 will air up to 75 regular-season games and up to 29 playoff games. ABC will air a minimum of 15 regular-season games and at least 15 playoff games, including the NBA Finals. NBA TV will air up to 96 regular-season games and nine playoff games.


While Stern said broadcasting rights retain significant value, Disney and Turner ocused on expanded options to profit from digital media. Networks, for example, will be allowed to stream games and studio shows on multimedia platforms.


The deal also covers platforms yet to be created. ESPN/ABC executive John Skipper said ESPN has launched seven delivery platforms since 2002 and expects to launch five to 10 over the next decade.


While the networks were touting their new digital rights, Stern was able to present owners with a higher rights number at a time when the NBA is slipping badly as a pure TV property.


Although Nielsen ratings on TNT are up 17 percent for the regular season and 19 percent for the playoffs since 2003, regular-season ratings on ABC have dropped 31 percent since 2002, the NBA's last year on NBC, and ratings for the NBA Finals are off 37 percent.


Stern, however, he said the networks can offset any slide in TV audiences with "robust" digital growth. "Ultimately, if we remain on our toes, there will an expansion," he said.


Several sources, including the Associated Press, described the deal's value at $930 million a year. Others said the average increase will be about 3 percent a year, which they compared to a cost of living increase.



NBA's new media deal for broadband coverage should be interesting. MLB has all the other leagues easily outdone online with MLB.tv and MLB Gameday Audio.

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