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Time for expansion? NBA agrees to media rights deal, source tells AP

By meerna Jul11,2024
Time for expansion? NBA agrees to media rights deal, source tells AP

The NBA has agreed to terms on a new media deal, an 11-year, $76 billion deal that could pave the way for a potential Seattle expansion team, ensures player salaries will continue to rise for the foreseeable future and is sure to change the way some viewers watch the game for years to come.

Is this a key domino for a Seattle NBA team that will fall after the Celtics are put up for sale?

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the networks have term sheets and the next step will be for the league’s board of governors to approve the contracts.

The person spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss such sensitive topics.

The deal, which set NBA records for both length and total value, goes into effect in the 2025-26 season. Games will continue to air on ESPN and ABC, with some now coming to NBC and Amazon Prime. TNT Sports, which has been part of the league’s broadcast family since the 1980s, could be gone, but it has five days to match one of the deals.

The five-day period will be counted from the moment the league sends the completed contracts to TNT.

The Athletic was the first to report on these agreements.

The deal means attention can turn to the next major item on the NBA’s to-do list: expansion.

Commissioner Adam Silver has been very clear about the order of priority agenda items in recent seasons: preserving labor peace (which was achieved with the new CBA), getting a new media deal (now essentially done), and then, and only then, would the league turn its attention to adding new franchises. Las Vegas and Seattle are typically among the cities most often mentioned as top candidates for expansion, with others like Montreal, Vancouver and Kansas City also expected to have groups interested.

In the short term, the deal almost certainly means the league’s salary cap will increase by 10% per year — the maximum under the terms of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NBA and its players. That means players like Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dallas’ Luka Doncic could earn around $80 million in the 2030-31 season, and raises at least some possibility that top players could be making somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million per season by the mid-2030s.

As the total value of broadcast rights packages has increased over the past 25 years, salaries have also increased because of how much this revenue stream feeds into the salary cap.

When NBC and Turner agreed to a four-year, $2.6 billion deal beginning with the 1998-99 season, the salary cap was $30 million per team and the average salary was about $2.5 million. The average salary this season has topped $10 million per player—and it will only go up from there.

When the NBC-Turner deal, which began a quarter-century ago, expired, the next deal—spanning six seasons—cost ABC, ESPN and Turner about $4.6 billion. The one after that was a seven-year deal that cost the networks $7.4 billion.

The current deal, which expires next season, has broken those records — nine years, almost $24 billion.

Now that seems like pennies.

From the 1998-99 agreement to the current one, which is due to come into effect in 2025, the total value has increased by about 2,800%. Even taking into account inflation, the value has increased by about 1,400% in that period.

This post reflects edits made by Seattle Sports staff.

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