NBA lockout nears end; marketers ready to play

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The National Basketball Association appears to be coming back, and advertisers are waiting with open arms after the three-month shutdown of the league.

A day before NBA Commissioner David Stern's deadline to cancel the season, the players union and the league tentatively agreed to a deal today, a league spokeswoman said. The owners and union still must ratify the deal. An abbreviated season probably would begin the first week of February.

Most advertisers will come out of the shutdown in decent shape, said Bob Igiel, exec VP and U.S. director of broadcast for Media Edge, New York. He noted most NBA ad budgets don't really kick in until February, after the National Football League season has ended with the Super Bowl. NBC traditionally airs a big NBA game on Super Bowl weekend. "Those marketers that needed weight [up until this point] bought other alternatives, which tightened first-quarter inventory," he said.

Still, certain companies, such as Anheuser-Busch, are already scheduling meetings with NBC, the network that has the NBA's national broadcast contract, about delivering possible make-goods for missed games.

Turner Broadcasting System, which holds the national cable contract, has been most affected by the lockout, missing 31 games of an 80-game telecast schedule. Since last October, when the season should have started, about half of Turner NBA advertisers moved their fourth-quarter money to the first quarter.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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