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NBA To Land Huge Rights Deal

Jason Barrett

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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

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami, according to sources.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website. An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now. He was tweeting during his show’s scheduled time, with this being his most recent one which also referenced the show which appeared to still be on the air at the time.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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