Making sense of NBA’s rise in TV dollars

How will the new TV deal affect free agents like LeBron James? As LeBron said Monday, a new deal is good for everyone.

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In case you’re wondering how the NBA’s new mammoth television deal will impact the on-court product, here’s your answer:

Not at all.

But it could mean something to the business of the league, and that’s maybe at least a little important. Funds, at the professional level, allow the ball to keep bouncing.

The owners are billionaires, the players are millionaires, and the rest of us are major reasons why. If you didn’t watch the games on TV, the ratings would stink and the advertisers would take their money elsewhere.

You don’t need an accounting degree to understand any of that. As for the rest of it? Well, now that takes a little explaining.

I’m probably like you. I don’t really care. I’m much more interested in watching actual games than talking about the dollar signs around it. Pro athletes live a steak-and-jet lifestyle, and I’ve never held it against them or the owners who buy teams to make it happen.

Let’s just play ball.

With all that in mind, here are a few highlights about the league’s new TV rights deal, and what one key member of the game is saying about it — and what it may mean for the casual fan (read: the majority of humans):

1. The new deal was announced Monday. All it does is extend the current contract with ESPN and TNT, with a few minor adjustments. The extension kicks in for the 2016-17 season. So it’s a few years off.

2. According the New York Times, the new deal is worth $2.66 billion per year. That’s nearly triple the $930 million the league currently receives for its TV (and "digital") rights.

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3. Goodness gracious, that’s a lot of cash. 

4. Remember the lockout of 2011-12? Yeah, me neither. At least, I don’t remember much. I just know it meant a work-stoppage — with the owners keeping the players from playing (and coaches from coaching) at the end of the previous collective-bargaining agreement. That’s called "the CBA" for short, and the owners and players’ association re-negotiate it every so often, just to make sure they’re each getting their fair share of revenue. And there’s gobs of revenue, kids. Again, the NBA should thank you for it.

5. I’m not one of those people who think the owners are greedy or the players are overpaid. The money is there. It should be dispersed. That’s just fair business in America.

6. The current CBA expires at the end of the 2016-17 season. Interestingly (I guess), that’s right after the new TV deal nearly triples.

7. At the end of the previous CBA, the owners claimed teams were losing money. They took a strong stance in those negotiations, and from what I read, most financial experts seemed to think the owners won. I’m not sure what most NBA writers thought, but I rarely pay attention to them in these matters. They should stick to the NBA. I know. I’m one of them.

8. Anyway, Cavaliers star LeBron James addressed the new TV deal at practice Monday. He has no official title when it comes to the players’ association. He’s just a guy. And oh yeah, a four-time NBA MVP. It’s the second part that makes you interested in what James has to say about all this.

9. LeBron: "I am kind of the guy that has the power, I guess, without even having to put a name on it. I’m very educated and I will use what I have to make sure our players are taken care of."

10. LeBron also correctly said the new TV deal is good for everyone involved, but added, "there’s some things that we’d like to see changed as players going forward."

11. That means some negotiations with the owners. Not now, but perhaps before the end of the 2016-17 season (again, when the CBA expires). That way, perhaps, things can be ironed out ahead of time and another work-stoppage can be avoided.

12. LeBron again: "At the end of the day, we will negotiate. We know it’s going to happen at some point because our deal is ending soon. We would love to do it sooner than later. We don’t want to it to happen like it happened last time when we went into a lockout."

13. So there you have it. The NBA will soon be generating even more cash, and for everyone involved in the league, that is a wonderful thing. That’s provided, of course, everyone agrees (or comes close to agreeing) on how best to divvy it up. 

As for how all of this impacts NBA fans and writers, well, it’s hard to say. All it probably means is tuning into the FOX Business channel more frequently when the time is right. Or hey, maybe we can figure out a way to tap into the gobs of money ourselves.

Until then, well, let’s just play ball.