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NBA To Land Huge Rights Deal

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The NBA and its network partners expect to reach an agreement in principle on new long-term media deals by the start of the regular season, according to sources on all sides of the discussions.

Talks have progressed so rapidly that details are emerging on a massive agreement that would see the league’s annual rights fee more than double, with ESPN and Turner combining to pay more than $2 billion per year on average. One source said ESPN already has committed to pay “well over” $1 billion per year, and Turner is not far behind for a media rights extension that would kick in with the 2016-17 season.

As part of the current eight-year deals that end in June 2016, ESPN pays $485 million per year and Turner pays $445 million per year on average, bringing the league’s total take at just less than $1 billion per year.

But that figure would be dwarfed in a new deal that several sources pegged as an eight-year pact, though one source with knowledge of the talks said it ultimately could end up running nine years.

A final deal might not be signed or announced before the new season, but talks with ESPN and Turner are advanced enough that sources said there is little chance the NBA will carve out a third package for another network, like Fox Sports or NBC Sports. ESPN, in particular, has been adamant during negotiations that the NBA not develop a new package to sell to a competitive sports network, sources said.

The NBA cannot talk to other networks until the middle of next year, when ESPN and Turner’s exclusive negotiating window runs out. Barring an unforeseen snag in the ongoing negotiations, all sides expect new deals to be signed well before that happens.

The new agreements are expected to mirror the current ones in many ways. While many believe the league and its TV partners could fashion an agreement by the season opener on Oct. 28 — with a formal announcement likely to come weeks or even months later — several issues are left to be resolved, such as what to do with live streaming rights. The NBA wants to explore the NFL’s model, where streaming rights are sold separately. The NFL sold streaming rights to Verizon as part of a four-year, $1 billion deal that runs through the 2017 season. ESPN and Turner are balking at such a plan, saying that they need streaming rights to the games they produce.

One network source called a separation of those rights a “nonstarter.”

Streaming rights have been part of every TV rights deal (other than in the NFL) for the past several years, and the cable industry’s TV Everywhere streaming push continues to be a priority for networks and distributors.

While the league wants to retain control over its live streaming rights, one source said any new deal will likely include additional digital rights to the networks.

“That includes more video highlights and digital packages,” the source said.

The league and networks have reached broad agreement on several points. ESPN will retain rights to the NBA Finals championship series, which will remain on ABC. Turner will keep its exclusive Thursday night franchise and NBA All-Star Game coverage.

Turner also will continue to manage the NBA’s digital assets, which include NBA TV, NBA League Pass and NBA.com. Over the past 18 months, other properties, such as NASCAR and the PGA Tour, have taken their digital rights back from Turner. But it would be more difficult for the NBA to take its digital rights back since they are combined with NBA TV and with League Pass, the league’s out-of-market package.

The new agreements would represent a coup for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who viewed the media deals as a top priority when he took over for longtime commissioner David Stern in February.

League and network executives declined to comment, but Silver hinted at the scope of the forthcoming deals at an industry conference in New York last week, saying, “The rights are going to go up, and go up a lot.”

For more visit the Sports Business Journal where this story was originally published

Sports Radio News

Jeff Rickard Named Program Director of WFNZ in Charlotte

“After our first conversation I knew Jeff was the one to take us to the next level.”

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Jeff Rickard is headed to Charlotte. The sports radio veteran has been named the new program director of WFNZ, one of the Southeast’s premier sports radio brands.

Rickard replaces Terry Foxx who announced in February that he was leaving Charlotte to take over KUT in Austin. 

“We are committed to making sports radio even bigger in Charlotte, adding the 92.7 FM signal in March was just the beginning of that commitment,” Marsha Landess, Regional Vice President of Radio One, said in a press release. “Having a successful veteran like Jeff Rickard join our team will help take us to the level that a passionate sports city like Charlotte deserves. Jeff brings to WFNZ extensive sports experience, talent, drive, and a passion for success. He will be a great complement to our incredibly talented local Charlotte on-air team. After our first conversation I knew he was the one to take us to the next level. As the flagship station for the Charlotte Hornets as well as Charlotte FC we are looking forward to an incredibly successful future with Jeff leading the charge.”

Rickard’s resume in sports radio speaks for itself. He was most recently the brand manager at WEEI in Boston, a role he exited in January. Prior to that, he spent six years at 107.5 The Fan in Indianapolis serving as both a weekday host and the station’s program director. He has also worked nationally for ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, and SiriusXM, and spent time during the early part of his career working in Denver and Salt Lake City.

“I had been planning on taking a professional sabbatical this year but after meeting with Marsha Landess and learning more about Radio One, I began to get more excited to get back to work,” shared Rickard. “Radio One as a company, combined with Marsha’s leadership and the potential for WFNZ, was just too appealing to not be a part of. I am extremely grateful to Radio One for this opportunity and can’t wait to start working with the talented staff in Charlotte. My family and I are all in on this situation and can’t wait to get started on this new chapter.”

Not one to waste time diving in, Rickard officially stepped into the Charlotte offices today to meet his new staff.

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Kirk Herbstriet Wants To Be Held To Same Standard For NFL As College Football

“Herbstreit was on The Pat McAfee Show on Friday and he said he is already at Pro Football Focus in Cincinnati doing his research.”

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The NFL schedule was released last week, and Thursday Night Football has a lot of interesting matchups for its first year on Amazon Prime. It is also a new broadcast booth with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit on the call. 

With Herbstreit now adding Thursday Night Football to College Gameday, he has already started preparing for the upcoming season. Herbstreit was on The Pat McAfee Show on Friday and he said he is already at Pro Football Focus in Cincinnati doing his research.

“I’m just trying to lay a foundation,” said Herbstreit. 

Herbstreit told McAfee that whenever anyone asks him to talk about a college team, he can quickly tell them what the DNA of that team is. Now he wants to bring that level of preparation to his NFL broadcasts. He will look at a different matchup every week this summer to get a more detailed idea of what each team is about: 

As for his connection with Al Michaels, Herbstreit mentioned he has gone out to dinner with him a couple of times and he wants to make going out to eat with his broadcast partner a frequent deal.

“Hung out with him 2-3 times. Had a chance just to get to know him. When you go into a new deal, I love like Wednesday night dinner, I want to make a staple and just hang out and get to know him and hopefully he will get to know me. When you do that, it allows you to have natural chemistry.”

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Andrew Mason To Succeed John Clayton At 104.3 The Fan

“Mason comes to The Fan from DNVR, a digital outlet where he provided written and audio content for the last three seasons.”

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John Clayton passed away earlier this year. That left 104.3 The Fan without a lead Broncos writer for the 2022 season. On Monday, the station announced that it had hired a successor in Andrew Mason.

Mason comes to The Fan from DNVR, a digital outlet where he provided written and audio content for the last three seasons.

“Mase’s work speaks for itself as one of the market’s most respected analysts when it comes to writing about and discussing the Broncos,” Raj Sharan, The Fan’s program director, said in a press release. “Replacing someone of the legendary stature of John Clayton was not something we took lightly, and we believe Mase is the perfect person to pick up that mantle and bring tremendous credibility and content to our rapidly growing digital platforms.”

Andrew Mason has a lot of credibility with Broncos fans. He has covered the team for 19 years. He has also written a book called Tales from the Denver Broncos Sideline.

The Fan won’t be his first foray into Denver radio either. Mason has previously been a host on Mile High Sports Radio and the defunct KDSP- AM.

“I’m thrilled to join The Fan team and add what I can to the efforts of building Denver’s premier online destination for Denver fans,” said Mason. “Being tasked with replacing a legend like John Clayton is a responsibility I take very seriously, and I’m honored The Fan has entrusted me with this opportunity.”

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