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ESPN seals new NBA deal to offer live regular season games online

nba agrees to long term deal with disney time warner bryant lakers
The National Basketball Association announced today that it has signed long-term media rights agreements with ESPN parent company Disney, and Turner Broadcasting System, expanding various aspects of the contracts beginning with the 2016-17 season and running through the 2024-25 season. But perhaps the most intriguing news to come from the negotiations is the NBA and ESPN’s establishing of a framework for a new over-the-top (OTT) video service, which will be offered to viewers without the need for authentication through a cable or satellite subscription.

Details about the new service including how many games will be offered, what it will cost, and how it will be distributed have yet to surface. However, the deal did seem to outline that certain NBA content, including playoff games, will not be part of the online package.

The NBA deal will also serve to significantly enhance ESPN’s television, digital, highlights, data, audio, and International NBA rights, while Turner will benefit from expanded digital media rights and sales opportunities. The new nine-year agreements will officially begin at the start of the the 2016-17 season and will see ABC, TNT, and ESPN continue to televise NBA games.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver explained in a press conference that renewals have come two years early, as the NBA’s current eight-year deals with ABC/ESPN and TNT don’t technically expire until the end of the 2015-16 season. The partners will televise more national regular-season games under the new agreements, with 10 additional regular-season game broadcasts slated for ESPN/ABC (for a total of 100) and 12 for Turner’s TNT network (64 total).

NBA TV‘s Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Saturday game telecasts will continue to fill out the weekly schedule and make for a full week of nationally televised games. The league’s 24-hour network will air more than 100 regular-season games annually. Disney’s ABC network will continue to air the NBA Finals.

Today’s news comes at an interesting crossroads for online TV services. A handful of major players in the content game are leaning away from authenticated online offerings, which rely on subscriptions from traditional satellite or cable services, and tailoring their online content instead for the growing crowd of cord-cutters, who have walked away from traditional pay-TV services. Disney is on the forefront of the new movement, recently inking a similar deal with Dish Network for its forthcoming new OTT linear TV service. The standalone service, which is expected to cost around $20-30 per month, has garnered Disney content like ESPN and ABC, as well as a new deal with A&E for access to channels like Lifetime, History, and A&E itself.

We’ll continue to follow this story as more details emerge about the new OTT service, and will update accordingly, so stay tuned.

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