Reports: NBA reaches $76B media rights deal

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The NBA has agreed to terms on its new media deal, an 11-year agreement worth $76 billion that assures player salaries will continue rising for the foreseeable future and one 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.

The deal, which sets NBA records for both its length and total value, goes 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 will 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.

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

NBC will showcase games on Sunday night once the NFL season has ended. It will air games on Tuesdays throughout the regular season. A Monday night package of games will be exclusively streamed on Peacock.

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

NBC and Prime Video will alternate who carries the other conference finals series.

In the short term, the deal almost certainly means 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.

Commissioner Adam 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 rising 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.

From the deal that started in 1998-99 to the one now struck to begin in 2025, the total value has climbed by about 2,800%. Factoring for inflation between then and now, the value goes up about 1,400%.

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