Adam Silver proudly announced the NBA's new TV deal with ESPN and TNT this morning, one that nearly triples how much its cable partners will pay the league to broadcast its regular season and playoff games. That amount—$2.7 billion a year—is especially insane when compared to what NBC, Fox, and CBS are paying for a far more popular NFL product.
Assuming a best-case scenario of every playoff series going 7 games,we estimate the cable networks will pay on average $10 million for each of the 258 possible national broadcasts. That's compared to the NFL, where CBS, Fox, and NBC pay $34m, $36m, and $45m per broadcast window, respectively. (ESPN's deal is separate, and ridiculous; it pays $112 million dollars for each Monday night game.) Averaged out, that's $37 million per national NFL broadcast window.
37 is more than 10, but the NFL also draws a lot more eyes. This season, the NFL is averaging around 20 million viewers per broadcast window. Last year, the NBA averaged 2 million viewers per game, and that's on a downward trend.
Doing the math, that means the NFL is getting paid $1.84 for every viewer. ESPN and TNT, meanwhile, will pay the NBA a whopping $5.04 per viewer per game—or 274% as much. Are NBA viewers worth that much more? The money has to come from somewhere, which means it's on the Disney and Time Warner salespeople to convince advertisers basketball eyeballs have more value than those in the heads of football fans.
The alternative, of course, is to jack up your cable rates.