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Volume 21 No. 22
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Hornets extend with FS Southeast for $20M-plus a year

The Charlotte Hornets have extended their local media deal with Fox Sports Southeast, covering the team’s rights for the bulk of a decade.

 

Starting next season, Fox will pay the team an annual rights fee in the low-to-high $20 million range, up from about $14 million this season, sources said.

The contract is just shy of 10 years and ends with a rights fee in the high $20 million range. Sources said the deal’s financials are in line with other NBA teams from similar-sized markets.

The Hornets rank 20th in local TV ratings.
Photo: phil ellsworth / espn images

Fred Whitfield, Hornets president, and Pete Guelli, Hornets executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, led negotiations for the team. Fox Sports Regional Networks President Jeff Krolik led negotiations for Fox. Neither the team nor Fox would comment on terms of the deal.

Whitfield said the long-term partnership with Fox Sports has improved TV distribution. The team struggled early after original team owner Bob Johnson’s failed effort to create a team-run network, which forced the team to put its games on a local all-news channel. Fox Sports Southeast has been the team’s TV partner since 2008, helping broaden the team’s TV distribution from about 750,000 homes to today where the games reach nearly every area in North Carolina and South Carolina.

“We are in almost 4 million households,” Whitfield said. “The biggest focus has been on distribution and Fox has helped us be a regional team.”

Fox has the rights to broadcast all regular-season games in the new deal. This season, 79 of the team’s 82 regular-season games were aired on Fox Sports Southeast.

The new agreement for the first time will include two preseason games, with the current 30-minute pregame and postgame shows to continue.

The new deal comes as the Hornets through Feb. 12 had a 0.93 rating over 52 games, up 3 percent from the same period last season. Through Feb. 12, the team ranked 20th out of 27 NBA teams with ratings data available.

Alan Gold of Evolution Media consulted on the deal for the Hornets.

The upswing in the team’s media rights fees comes after the Hornets recently signed another major deal: a three-year jersey patch agreement with LendingTree that is estimated to be worth between $5 million and $7 million annually.