The National Basketball Association is headed toward a pair of new six-year
deals with two cable partners beginning next season.
The league appears ready to abandon longtime broadcast partner NBC in favor
of The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC/ESPN duo.
Sources said ABC/ESPN offered the NBA more money (reportedly $2.4 billion,
compared with NBC's $1.3 billion offer) and more options. In addition to
broadcasts on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, ESPN has rights to radio broadcasts and the
league's Web site.
But the NBA will lose one-half of its network exposure: While NBC broadcasts
32 regular-season games this year, ABC only plans to air about 15 per season.
Another 65 games will be on ESPN.
Negotiations between the NBA and its other cable partner, AOL Time Warner
Inc., appear to be wrapping up, as well.
That portion, valued around $1 billion, puts about 50 games -- including some
conference-finals playoff games and the NBA All-Star Game -- on Turner Network
It also includes relaunching CNN/SI as a jointly owned basketball channel
featuring another 100 games.