New York—With ABC currently enjoying boffo ratings for this year’s NBA Finals, it has shined a light on the growing importance of live sports and event programming within the TV marketplace.
But it has also given the leagues a lot of leverage as they negotiate new media rights contracts with the networks that so desperately want their games.
Since 2011, new media rights deals have been cut for the NFL, MLB, World Cup, English Premier League, MLS and Olympics, among others, which each new deal marking a stark increase over the previous ones. With all the increases in sports rights, that caused many to wonder if at the end of the day, it’s the consumer who will have to foot the bill.
“I don’t think people mind paying for sports,” argued Will Funk senior VP, sponsorship integration and business development for Turner Sports Ad Sales, about the rising cost of sports programming. “As long as you’re getting the right value proposition.”
Funk was speaking during B&C/Multichannel News’ Multiplatform TV Summit on Wednesday, during a keynote session moderated by B&C executive editor Dade Hayes.
The topic of live sports rights comes as Turner Sports and ESPN are negotiating with the NBA on a new rights deal; the current one expires following the 2015-16 season.
“Sports, unlike other programming, there is a passion and a following for it,” continued Funk, who mentioned that Turner has many subscribers for their ancillary TV Everywhere packages including NBA League Pass Broadband.
The ratings for the NBA Playoffs leading up to the Finals have been very good for both ESPN/ABC and Turner; Funk said that NBA Playoff games were the No. 1 show during May in the all-important adults 18-49 demographic in primetime, posting year-over-year increases.
Funk admitted that they weren’t sure how well this year’s playoffs would perform on TV without the two most popular teams in the two biggest markets: The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers (the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers made the playoffs, but those teams are considered less popular in their respective markets).
But as Funk explained, sometimes the stars on the teams can shine no matter what city they play in, and pointed to this year’s Championship between Miami and San Antonio. “Miami and San Antonio are not the two biggest markets…but the ratings are beating everybody in primetime.”
Compared to Turner Sports’ other major property, Major League Baseball, Funk said that while our national pastime does skew older than NBA, it’s also a more upscale audience. “That’s the nature of the beast.”
Funk also noted the difference in Turner Sports and their competitors in the sports business such as ESPN and Fox Sports 1. “We’re not a 24-hour sports network at TNT and TBS,” he said. “We’re highly rated entertainment networks.”