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Sports fans enjoy the NBA for various reasons, whether it’s the competitive matchups, the comical memes provided by Josiah Johnson on Twitter, Mike Breen yelling “BANG!” after a big shot, or the endless viral content we get from the Inside The NBA team on TNT. However, no matter how you consume the NBA, one of the stories to watch is the development of the NBA’s next media rights deal. The NBA’s current agreement with ESPN and Warner Brothers Discovery is set to expire after the 2024-2025 season. It is reported that the league is seeking a $75 billion media rights deal, over a $40 billion increase from its current $24 billion deal. If they can strike a $75 billion deal, it will come in second to the NFL’s recent media rights deal at $100 billion. While there is no doubt that the numbers for the media rights deals are enormous, when one analyzes the overall engagement of the NBA and some of the most significant drivers for media rights deals, it is reasonable to understand why the league will request so much more in terms of media rights deals.
The NBA’s Social Media Milestones
The NBA has the most social media followers than any professional league. For the 2022-2023 season, the NBA generated 18 billion viewers across multiple social media platforms. Besides the billions of viewers, the NBA gained 14 million followers outside the U.S., demonstrating the league’s global reach. The NBA’s social media following will play a significant role in its new media rights deal.
In addition, NBA fans on social media are more than likely to consume games and content on platforms beyond traditional broadcasting, whether by phone, computer, or tablet. With this in mind, streaming will become increasingly important to the NBA; professional leagues like MLS and MLB have streaming agreements with Apple. The NFL partnered with Youtube TV for its Sunday Ticket Package and Amazon Prime. I foresee Youtube TV being a part of the new media rights deal. The NBA hit a milestone on Youtube; their channel is the first professional sports league to reach over 20 million subscribers. Further, the channel was consistent in attracting over 70 million unique viewers.
The Value of NBA Media Rights
Several factors contribute to the value of the new NBA media rights deal. Among these factors is the NBA’s popularity; for example, it’s the eighth most followed brand on Instagram. Also, the NBA viewership demographic is technologically savvy, and the global reach of the NBA adds to its media value; this is reflected in the NBA’s efforts to play numerous exhibition games in countries within Europe and China.
It is also worth considering the integration of technology into the NBA’s business offerings. The NBA’s innovation efforts within augmented and virtual reality have brought significant value to the league. NBA and NextVR have released NBA League Pass VR, allowing fans to experience virtual reality games. In the future, fans can virtually experience the game as if they were sitting courtside with a 360-degree view of the game, thanks to VR headsets. Using VR to broadcast NBA games: The NBA has experimented with virtual reality broadcasting. During the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, fans could watch the game from a virtual suite in VR.
Ultimately, the NBA’s next media deal will impact not just the league itself but also how fans consume the games. Since the last media rights deal in 2014, the consumer demographic has shifted to focus more on short-form content than broadcasting. Sure, the league will have its traditional television partners; however, do not be surprised if they invest more into streaming, technology, as well as the global expansion of the league.
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