NBA viewership is up this season, although that bucks a long-term trend of the league losing viewers. While some would like to make a political point with that, the reality is it’s more about changing viewing habits of younger generations and other factors, not people turning away the NBA or the culture around the game.
Or, look at it this way: Traditional NBA viewership may be declining, but experts expect the next NBA national television broadcast deal to be worth near triple the current $24 billion one (about $2.6 billion per year).
Jabari Young breaks it all down at CNBC:
Early thinking within league circles suggests the NBA will seek a $75 billion rights package…
One person familiar with sports media deals said the NBA could get $70.2 billion over nine years, using metrics including total viewer hours, which helps networks determine the value of sports league rights. The person also said tier-one sports rights are important to streaming services…
Should the NBA triple its rights and replicate its nine-year deal length, it would generate around $7 billion to $8 billion per season. That puts it just behind the NFL’s new $10 billion per year average once the new agreements begin. The NBA also has a $1.5 billion streaming deal with Chinese-based company Tencent Holdings.
The NBA’s television deals are with Disney (ABC/ESPN) and AT&T (Turner Broadcasting, which is TNT and NBA TV).
What the NBA provides them, from a business perspective, is a much more popular sport globally than the NFL or baseball, and sport still proving popular with harder to reach Gen Z, even if they consume the media in different ways than Baby Boomers and Gen X did. Young’s report says the NBA seems to be continuing that trend with Gen Alpha (I guess that’s what we’re calling the youngest generation). Increased legalized gambling (and illegal gambling) also may play a role (although how much has yet to be quantified).
That money pouring into the NBA will be split between the league and its players, a divide that is currently roughly 50/50 (it’s more complex than that, but that’s the basic idea). More television revenue will lead to a higher salary cap and, with that, higher salaries (particularly for the elite players, but somewhat trickling down to role and minimum players).
The NBA’s negotiations for its next broadcast deal — which probably stays with the current partners and focus more on streaming rights — is more than a year away, but the groundwork has been laid. And it looks like the NBA is about to get paid.