The National Basketball Association signed new four-year TV rights pacts with NBC and Turner Sports at more than double the price of its current deals with those companies. Those contracts expire at the end of the 1997-98 season. The move was expected. NBC will pay $425 million a year beginning next season, up from $187.5 million a year; Turner will see its rights fee increase from $88 million a year to $200 million a year. The networks will pay for the increases with a mix of higher rates and new and additional programming. NBC's basic package, for example, features a 35% increase in the number of post-season games and a 28% increase in regular season games, while ad rates will increase 10% each season. NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol says he is confident the network will break even, if not make money, on its $1.7 billion deal. In the event of labor strife that would result in a player lock-out at the start of next season, as some predict, the networks will continue to pay their rights fees for up to a year. The NBA would reimburse the money over the span of the contract, if need be.
Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.