Reports: NBA reaches $76B media rights deals

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The NBA has agreed to terms on its new media deals, record 11-year agreements worth $76 billion that would assure player salaries will continue rising for the foreseeable future and that will surely change how some viewers access the game for years to come.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the networks have the terms sheets, with the next step being for the league’s board of governors to approve the contracts.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because they weren’t at liberty to discuss such impending matters.

There is a board of governors meeting next week in Las Vegas, coinciding with the NBA summer league, and it would seem logical that the deals — if they get through various committees and obtain other approvals — might be finalized around that time.

The NBA did not comment Wednesday.

The deals, which set NBA records for both length and total value, go into effect for the 2025-26 season. Games will continue being aired on ESPN and ABC, and now some will be going to NBC and Amazon Prime. TNT Sports, which has been part of the league’s broadcasting family since the 1980s, could be on its way out but has five days to match one of the deals.

The five-day clock would begin once the league sends the finished contracts to TNT.

The Athletic was the first to report on the contracts.

ESPN and ABC will continue to have the league’s top package, which includes the NBA Finals and one of the conference finals series. ABC has aired the NBA Finals since 2003. ABC would continue to air games on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons when the NFL’s regular season ends.

ESPN’s main nights will continue to be Wednesday with some Friday and Sunday games.

Exclusivity of the Finals comes with a big price increase. Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN and ABC, would pay $2.6 billion per year under the new contract, compared to $1.4 billion in its current deal.

The return of NBC, which carried NBA games from 1990 through 2002, gives the league two broadcast network partners for the first time.

NBC — whose deal is expected to be $2.5 billion per season — would showcase games on Sunday nights once the NFL season has ended. It will air games on Tuesdays throughout the regular season, and a Monday night package of games would be exclusively streamed on Peacock.

Prime Video would have games on Thursday nights after it is done carrying NFL games. Its other nights would be Friday and Saturday.

NBC and Prime Video would alternate who carries the other conference final. Prime Video’s rights would average $1.8 billion per year.

TNT Sports currently is paying $1.4 billion per season. Considering the amounts of the three packages, that would make the Prime Video rights the ones it would be likely to try to match.

Silver said during the NBA Finals last month that the length of the deals — he did not confirm 11 years specifically — is “good for the stability of the league.”

“But it means to a certain extent you’re trying to predict the future, which is of course impossible,” Silver said in June. “So part of it is a bet on the partners that we will ultimately align with and their ability also to adjust with the times and their willingness to continue to invest in media and also become global, which to my earlier point is very important to the league, as well.”

In the short term, the deals almost certainly mean the league’s salary cap will rise 10% annually — the maximum allowed by the terms of the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players. That means players such as Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dallas’ Luka Doncic could be making around $80 million in the 2030-31 season and raises at least some possibility that top players might be earning somewhere near $100 million per season by the mid-2030s.

It also clears the way for the next major item on the NBA’s to-do list: expansion.

Silver was very clear on the order of his top agenda items in recent seasons, those being preserving labor peace (which was achieved with the new CBA), getting a new media deal (now essentially completed), and then and only then turning the league’s attention toward adding new franchises. Las Vegas and Seattle are typically among the cities most prominently mentioned as top expansion candidates, with others such as Montreal, Vancouver and Kansas City expected to have groups with interest as well.

As the broadcast rights packages have grown in total value over the past 25 years, so, too, have salaries because of how much that revenue stream ends up fueling the salary cap.

When NBC and Turner agreed to a $2.6 billion, four-year deal that started with the 1998-99 season, the salary cap was $30 million per team and the average salary was around $2.5 million. The average salary this season exceeded $10 million per player — and it’s only going to keep going up from here.

When that NBC-Turner deal that started a quarter-century ago expired, the next deal — covering six seasons — cost ABC, ESPN and Turner about $4.6 billion. The next was a seven-year deal, costing those networks $7.4 billion.

The current deal, the one that will expire next season, smashed those records at nine years and nearly $24 billion.

And now, that seems like pocket change.

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