2016 is when the NBA’s current national TV deal expires. This 2007-inked agreement promises pro basketball a total of 930 million dollars per year from ESPN and TNT, divided equally among teams. Stern netted the package during something of an NBA nadir, an ugly lull that did little to foreshadow this renaissance we’re all chomping mutton legs to in 2011.
Back then, basketball was still mired in the palace-brawl era, the post Shaq-Kobe era. San Antonio had just pummelled Cleveland in the 2007 Finals, a dismal four-game cornea-etcher that averaged a 6.2 Nielsen rating–down 27% from a 2006 Finals that was far from box office platinum.
The 2007 national TV deal? Well, that 930 million-per represented a 22% boost over the preceding arrangement. A ratings dip oddly came before a rise in television money. From the Los Angeles Times:
“The cost of sports broadcast rights has escalated despite a decline in television ratings for the recent NBA finals and overall TV viewership of the league’s regular-season games. That is because sports are still considered appointment viewing on television and reach a demographic swath coveted by advertisers, who are also trying to expand their digital reach.”
Perhaps it’s also that, there is only one NBA, in good times and bad–and there are so few major sports. The finite supply of these sports might ensure increasing cash totals from increasingly rich advertisers/broadcasters, just like the finite supply of NBA teams might ensure increasing team values from increasingly rich buyers.
And in good times? If the cost of NBA broadcast rights climbs after bad ratings, great TV ratings should boost the NBA’s televised value higher than helium-sucking angels. The league has been on a TV tear recently, culminating in 15.0 rating for the 2011 championship-clincher. Even before that strong finish, Mike Ozanian of Forbes wrote of a potential 3 billion dollar total increase for the next NBA television deal.
Say ratings keep billowing, and say multiple suitors battle over NBA television rights in 2016. Say 930 million dollars looks like a starter home. Say these things, and you can posit as to why owners say the new CBA should be ten years, not five. Say these things, and you can guess at why owners would be ready to cement player salaries near current levels–despite proclamations of current destitution.