ESPN Announces New Deal With the NBA

ESPN may have lost the World Cup and chose not to go after the NCAA Tournament, but it did get what it has coveted since 2002, and that is continued rights to the National Basketball Association. In a nine year deal that covers the period between the 2016-17 and 2024-25 seasons, ESPN and ABC will continue to carry the bulk of the NBA regular season schedule on national television as well as a heavy schedule of postseason games as well as the NBA Finals.

In addition to its rights, ESPN and the NBA will develop a digital package of games that will be sold directly to consumers. Both ESPN and the NBA will profit from this new venture.

ESPN will develop new studio programming under the new agreement, 750 hours, and increase the NBA’s presence on the network to year-round.

ESPN/ABC will receive 10 additional regular season games bringing its total to 100 nationally televised windows.

In addition to airing the Final exclusively on ABC, ESPN will alternate the Conference Finals between the Eastern and Western Conferences with TNT.

It’s a big win for ESPN as it keeps the NBA Finals, adds to its inventory and shuts out Fox from getting a piece of the Association.

Here’s ESPN’s announcement.

ESPN & NBA Reach Nine-Year Agreement for Significantly Enhanced Multiplatform Rights

Increased TV, Digital, Highlights, Data, Audio & International Rights Through 2024-25
More Regular-Season Games, Greater Schedule Flexibility and Broader Exclusivity
NBA and ESPN Intend to Launch Over-The-Top Offering

ESPN has reached a forward-looking, nine-year, multiplatform agreement with the National Basketball Association, beginning with the 2016-17 season, which will significantly enhance the company’s NBA rights and content offerings. The agreement, effective through 2024-25, substantially increases ESPN’s television, digital, highlights, data, audio and International NBA rights. It was announced today by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and ESPN President John Skipper.

In addition, the parties have also established a framework for ESPN and the NBA to negotiate the launch of a new over-the-top offering in which the league would receive equity interest. Details for the new offering would be announced at a future date.

ABC will also remain the exclusive home of the NBA Finals.

In addition to the over-the-top service, the new and enhanced rights also include:

  • 10 additional regular-season games for ESPN or ABC bringing the regular season total to 100;
  • 10 more exclusive regular-season windows;
  • Increased team appearances to showcase the most popular teams and most compelling matchups more times throughout the season;
  • As part of the new agreement, ESPN will substantially increase its NBA-focused programming with 750 new hours of NBA content on linear and digital platforms, establishing a significant year-round presence for the NBA on ESPN;
  • ESPN has reached a multi-year extension for WNBA rights through 2025, which will include increased in-progress highlights on linear and digital platforms;
  • ESPN International – In Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, ESPN will carry significantly more exclusive regular-season and playoff games on ESPN platforms, including expanded weekend windows during the regular season, increased first and second round playoff coverage, and the NBA conference finals and NBA Finals (including exclusivity in Australia and New Zealand). Additionally, ESPN will carry more NBA-themed programming throughout the year;
  • Increased ability to use NBA footage and highlights, plus in-progress highlight rights, on all linear and digital ESPN offerings, including, ABC; ESPN; ESPN2; ESPNEWS; ESPN Deportes; ESPN International; ESPN Audio;; ESPN3, WatchESPN, SEC Network, ESPNU, Longhorn Network, Grantland, 538, ESPN Films;
  • Live, national rights to NBA Summer League and NBA D-League across ESPN entities;
  • While increasing its English-language distribution rights, ESPN Audio will become the exclusive Spanish-language national rights holder through ESPN Deportes Radio on terrestrial radio, satellite and all forms of radio devices including digital and third party platforms;
  • Additional regular-season and playoff games for ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes+.

The new rights join these extensive continuing elements in the new agreement:

  • ABC will continue to be the exclusive broadcast home of The Finals;
  • The NBA post-season begins and concludes on ESPN networks, as ESPN and ABC combine for up to 44 NBA post-season games, including the Conference Finals;
  • ESPN Audio will continue its 20-plus year tenure as the exclusive, national radio home of the NBA, with coverage of the NBA Finals, NBA Conference Finals, NBA Playoffs, NBA All-Star Game and NBA regular-season games;
  • ESPN and ABC will continue with a significant television presence for NBA Christmas Day, the NBA’s season-opening week and NBA All-Star festivities such as the Celebrity All-Star Game;
  • Season-long prime time games Wednesdays and Fridays on ESPN and Sundays on ESPN and ABC;
  • NBA Finals streamed on ESPN3 or WatchABC and ESPN Deportes;
  • Extensive weekly studio programming on ESPN;
  • ESPN will continue to be the exclusive home to the NBA Draft, NBA Draft Combine and NBA Draft Lottery.

ESPN President John Skipper:

“The NBA has never been more popular and it continues to grow under Adam’s leadership. By acquiring significantly more NBA content for both existing and yet-to-be created platforms, we will establish a vibrant, year-round NBA presence for fans. For ESPN, this agreement continues our fruitful, longstanding relationship with the NBA and bolsters what is already the sports industry’s most impressive and impactful collection of media rights.”

This new agreement will ensure a 23-year continuous relationship between the network and league, which began in 2002. There are two years remaining on the existing rights agreement, which is effective through the 2015-16 season.

Later today, we’ll review the deal and see who were the winners and losers.

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.