I'm Not Sure How the NBA Triples Its Rights Fees in a TV Recession
ESPN is bleeding and Youtube is losing money off NFL. What happens to the NBA?
When you read a story about the business side of the sports industry, it’s hard to differentiate reality from spin, given how successful leagues are at influencing journalists. The leagues can be aggressive about seeding publications with reasons for why their next TV deal should be more massive than massive. For many years, the contracts have largely lived up to the hype. But we’re in a different moment, right now, one that feels more like a precipice than a progression.
Cable TV is in obvious freefall. The Charter vs. Disney standoff was an indicator that cable providers aren’t just rubber-stamping whatever fees broadcasters push in their direction. Belts must tighten. And yet, there remains this public faith in ever-expanding sports league TV profits. To be sure, it’s been an incredible, multigenerational winning streak for the leagues. But, to quote economist Herbert Stein, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” The main question is whether it finally stops right now, with the NBA holding the bag, or whether it’s some other league, down the road, that’ll have its economics destroyed by the inevitable correction. And there are signs of a correction coming. Which brings us to this curious Wall Street Journal report on the NBA’s television rights dilemma.