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Report: NBA would continue to receive national TV money during work stoppage

John Skipper, David Levy, Ted Leonsis, Adam Silver

ESPN President John Skipper, left, David Levy, second left, President of Turner Broadcasting System, Ted Leonsis, second right, owner of the Washington Wizards, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, right, stand with basketballs for a portrait after a deal was announced between the league and TV networks, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 in New York. The NBA has extended its television deals with ESPN and TNT for nine years. The league announced Monday that the new contracts will run through the 2024-25 season. The previous eight-year agreements end after the 2015-16 season. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)


National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said she and NBA commissioner Adam Silver were already talking, that she hoped to reach a deal by the end of this season.

Zach Lowe of Grantland noted that quote, cited people across the basketball industry and expressed optimism for avoiding a lockout.

He also dropped this important piece of information that runs contrary to his overall view.


The new national TV deal requires broadcast partners, including ESPN, to pay the league even during a work stoppage, according to league sources.

Billionaire owners already had an inherent advantage over millionaire players. Owners can more easily afford a work stoppage, holding out until the players are desperate for a deal.

The owners continuing to receive TV money – reportedly $24 billion over nine years – would be huge. Sure, they’d lose other sources of revenue like ticket sales, but the TV money could limit their losses (or maybe even keep teams in the black while not having to pay players).

Meanwhile, players wouldn’t get paid at all. It might not take long for the players to accept a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that’s less favorable than the current one. Less money is better than no money, especially in a job with such a small window for careers.

Both the owners and players, with so much money to be made, have good reason to play nice. A work stoppage would probably hurt both sides. But it’d almost certainly hurt the players more. That’s important leverage – a big reason the owners might take a hard line.

Check out Lowe’s full piece for a detailed analysis of some of the financial challenges facing the league, many of which are more matters of big market vs. small market than owners vs. players.