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Volume 25 No. 239
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Tim Leiweke Says NBA Could Have Made More Money If Media Deals Opened Up

Outgoing MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke said the NBA could have secured more money from its new media-rights deal had it not stayed loyal to existing partners and opened it up to Google and other new media providers. ESPN and Turner in the new deals will pay out around $22.5B over nine years starting with the '16-17 season, which marks a significant premium on their current deals. However, Leiweke, speaking at The Sport Business Summit in London, believes the NBA could have secured more money if the league had brought in new partners. Leiweke credited ESPN and Turner for being astute negotiators, as they did not let the NBA out of the exclusive negotiating window." Leiweke: "I think the NBA could have made more money.” He added, "The NBA did a good job of being loyal to the people that have bought us to where we are at. I think we probably would have seen the new media and the new distribution companies pop up if the NBA got out of that exclusive window. Netflix is a good example of how the world is going to change.” Leiweke was speaking on a panel alongside his brother, Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, who expressed concern about the new media deals possibly leading to falling numbers at NBA games. He said, “When I think about big deals like that, I hope we never lose sight of the fact that our arenas still need to be filled. I think a large sporting event is iconic and I hope our venues don’t just become broadcasting studios” (John Reynolds, Correspondent).

FUTURE OF MAX DEALS? Radio host Dan Patrick said of the NBA’s TV deal, “I don’t know what will happen with the max deals. I wonder if they're going to try to get rid of max deals because now these players are saying, ‘You guys told us you were poor.’ First of all, if you're a player and actually believed that they're poor, then you're an idiot. These guys aren’t buying teams, holding on to them and then all of a sudden they don't have money. They have money. That's why you buy these teams. So, anybody who thought these owners don't have money, you're not a very good businessman. My problem is the max deals have been bad for the NBA because you have guys who shouldn’t have max deals, but you're forced to give them max deals. It should be supply and demand. There are certain guys who are worth more” ("The Dan Patrick Show,” 10/8).