ESPN, ABC And NBA Reach Six-Year Agreement 100-Plus Games Annually On ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2 NBA Finals On ABC

ESPN, ABC and the National Basketball Association have finalized a six-year agreement beginning in 2002-03 to televise more than 100 regular- and post-season games per year, including the NBA Finals, on ABC Sports, ESPN and ESPN2. The ESPN and ABC announcement was made today by ESPN President George Bodenheimer and ABC Television President Steve Bornstein. The agreement also features distribution rights for related NBA programming and content on numerous ESPN and ABC outlets and extensions of several existing agreements.

The wide-ranging agreement provides for coverage on multiple television networks (ABC, ABC Family, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS), ESPN Radio and, as well as opportunities involving emerging technologies such as video on demand, interactive TV, broadband and video game development.

The ABC Television Network will broadcast as many as 15 regular-season games beginning on Christmas and continuing on Sunday afternoons starting late January/early February. The post-season schedule on ABC will include up to 12 games, including the entire best-of-seven NBA Finals. All of ABC’s telecasts will have time period and broadcast exclusivity. The recently acquired ABC Family service will also televise post-game shows after each NBA Finals game aired on ABC, several NBA specials and encore presentations of NBA Inside Stuff, an entertaining weekly look behind-the-scenes of the NBA, which will be aired on ABC Saturday mornings.

ESPN and ESPN2 will televise 75 regular-season games – primarily on Wednesday and Friday nights and holidays, including many Friday doubleheaders. ESPN will also televise up to 24 playoff games, including up to seven exclusive telecasts of the conference finals. On Tuesday nights throughout the season, ESPN2 will debut a weekly “whiparound” program featuring highlights of all current NBA action and cut-ins to live action that evening.

“This agreement goes to the strength of our company,” Michael Eisner, Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, said. “Disney is about delivering great programming through a wide range of platforms. There is no question the NBA represents great, exciting, fast-paced competitive sports for over-the-air free broadcasting, for cable television, and for the Internet. Whether the content is sports, entertainment or news, people across America and around the world look to us for the best.”

Bodenheimer said: “For the first time in television history, one network, ESPN, will now feature all four major professional sports leagues. We’re thrilled to expand our relationship with David Stern and the NBA, an outstanding media franchise. The scope of this deal offers tremendous opportunities to fully realize its value and ESPN’s programming and promotional power will deliver unprecedented NBA coverage to our fans, affiliates and advertisers.”

Bornstein said, “Adding the NBA gives ABC Sports a broadcast network sports schedule that is absolutely second to none. I couldn’t be more pleased for ABC Sports, for the television network, and for all of our viewers and affiliates across the country.”

The NBA Finals join a long list of championships to be televised by ABC Sports and/or ESPN, including the Super Bowl, BCS Championship, Stanley Cup, World Cup Soccer, British Open, NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, Little League World Series, U.S. and World Figure Skating, the IRL featuring the Indy 500 and more. The networks present the industry’s most comprehensive college basketball and football schedules, as well as both primetime NFL packages, ABC’s Monday Night Football – with more than 30 years as television’s highest profile sports series – and ESPN’s Sunday Night Football, basic cable’s highest-rated series for 15 years.

In 2003, ABC Sports will carry the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA Finals and the BCS Championship game.

ABC’s coveragewill feature:

  • Exclusive coverage of the NBA Finals among its up to 12 playoff games
  • A Sunday afternoon telecast the first five weeks of the playoffs
  • Up to 15 Sunday afternoon regular-season games
  • A Christmas Day doubleheader
  • Half-hour NBA pre-game show before every ABC telecast
  • Several specials on ABC Family, including post-game shows after each NBA Finals game
  • One hour NBA All-Star Saturday Special on All-Star Weekend
  • Original presentations of NBA Inside Stuff on Saturday mornings

The ESPN and ESPN2 NBA coveragewill feature:

  • 75 regular-season games – primarily single games on Wednesdays and doubleheaders on Fridays
  • Extensive holiday game coverage on Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and President’s Day
  • Up to 24 playoff games on ESPN, including up to seven exclusive telecasts from one of the conference finals
  • No ESPN regular- or post-season blackouts
  • An ESPN2 studio “whiparound” program Tuesday nights; the one- to two-hour long program will feature live cut-ins to NBA games around the league
  • A five-hour NBA Draft telecast in prime-time on the Thursday following the NBA Finals, with a one-hour NBA Draft preview the night before
  • A special NBA Draft lottery show on ESPN, the first time the lottery will be presented as a stand-alone program, following an ABC Sunday afternoon telecast
  • Exclusive announcements, either on SportsCenter or in games, of many of the NBA’s major awards
  • A new Friday night All-Star gala to be jointly produced by ESPN and the NBA
  • Extension of agreements for NBA 2Night and NBA-related programming as part of ESPN’s SportsCentury series and ESPN Original Entertainment shows
  • Spanish language rights

The agreement also includes additional rights for numerous ESPN, Inc. entities and featuring new technologies:

  • ESPN and the NBA have reached separate agreements calling for extensions and expansions of the pre-existing agreements covering ESPN Radio, ESPN Classic, and SportsTicker to coincide with the length of the TV agreement
  • The extension includes expanded video highlight rights featuring personalized, high-quality video clips for ESPN Broadband, ESPN’s service which provides compelling original programming for cable modem users
  • Joint interactive TV initiatives including video highlights, real-time data (for both television and the Internet) and commerce opportunities for the sale of NBA, ESPN, ABC and Disney merchandise
  • Extension of current fantasy game initiatives to include distribution on multiple platforms, including wireless
  • Video on demand rights for time shifting of NBA games
  • An extension of the cross-promotional, cross-programming agreement between and

Through prior agreements, ESPN already enjoys an extensive relationship with the NBA, including NBA game coverage on ESPN Radio and ESPN International, featuring the NBA Finals; NBA programming on ESPN Classic; WNBA game coverage on ESPN and ESPN2; ESPN, ESPN2 and coverage of the league’s new National Basketball Development League; and non-game programming on news, magazine and ESPN Original Entertainment shows on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS. ESPN previously telecast NBA games for two seasons, 1982-83 and 1983-84.

The addition of NBA games solidifies ESPN’s position as the basketball network. The ESPN/ESPN2 lineup includes more than 100 NBA games; 261 NCAA men’s and 61 NCAA women’s games, including exclusive coverage of the women’s NCAA Tournament; 35 WNBA telecasts; up to 24 contests from the new NBDL; plus a variety of special events, including everything from high school all-star games to the Harlem Globetrotters to various events surrounding the NCAA men’s Final Four. In addition to event coverage, basketball fans find the best and most in-depth coverage of their favorite sport on SportsCenter, NBA 2Night, College Hoops Tonight and ESPNEWS. ESPN Regional Television is the country’s largest syndicator of college basketball, and ESPN also presents extensive basketball coverage through, ESPN The Magazine, and SportsTicker.

The ESPN network currently reaches nearly 86 million homes and ESPN2 is seen in almost 83 million. ABC Family is available to 84 million homes.

ABC Sports is continuing the tradition of excellence with the most comprehensive sports programming schedule on over-the-air broadcast television.

ESPN, Inc., The Worldwide Leader in Sports, is a multimedia sports entertainment company with over 40 business lines and entities. Its world headquarters is located in Bristol, Conn. The Walt Disney Company has an 80 percent interest in ESPN with The Hearst Company owning 20%.