NEW YORK, Jan. 22 -- The National Basketball Association has reached six-year agreements with ABC, ESPN and AOL Time Warner to have ABC, ESPN, Turner Network Television (TNT), and a new AOL Time Warner/NBA jointly owned national cable sports network, televise NBA games beginning with the 2002-03 season.

The deal marries media giants AOL Time Warner, ABC and ESPN together with the NBA -- creating unrivaled marketing and promotional power -- which offers the NBA's business partners an array of new opportunities to connect with fans.

"We are delighted that two of the most significant media entities in the world have joined with the NBA to bring the greatest game played by the world's best athletes to fans everywhere," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "With our extended relationship with AOL Time Warner and Turner Sports and our new partnership with The Walt Disney Company, the NBA is uniquely positioned for long-term success."


The new agreement with AOL Time Warner calls for TNT to televise 52 regular season games in primetime, 48 of which will be part of Thursday night doubleheaders, as well as the NBA All-Star Game and NBA All-Star Saturday events. TNT will also carry one Conference Finals series and approximately 45 games in the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs. TNT will air Thursday-night doubleheaders, as well as two Opening Night games, on an exclusive basis, with no other games being televised that night. Additionally, TNT will have this same exclusivity in the Conference Semi-finals and the Conference Finals. AOL Time Warner and the NBA will create a yet unnamed national sports network, which will be owned 50 percent by AOL Time Warner and 50 percent by the NBA. The network will televise a wide range of sporting events including 96 NBA games throughout the NBA regular season plus additional playoff games.

Under the agreement, America Online, Inc. (AOL) will become the NBA's preferred interactive services partner. AOL and the NBA will engage in online/offline cross promotions, with AOL being promoted by the NBA, and the NBA being promoted across AOL's interactive brands. In addition, a variety of NBA special features will be available for AOL members and visitors to AOL's other interactive brands and services.

"We are very pleased to announce this expanded relationship with the NBA, a longtime partner to AOL Time Warner on a number of fronts," said Bob Pittman, Co-COO of AOL Time Warner. "This agreement highlights AOL Time Warner's commitment to bringing our customers the very best in sports content, and significantly strengthens our Company's unique position in the sports marketplace. This is an exciting step for both AOL Time Warner and the NBA; through Turner Broadcasting and AOL, we'll help the NBA increase its fan base by bringing basketball fans across America the very best in NBA games, interactive content and features, and much more."

"The NBA and Turner Broadcasting have entered into an historic partnership that will allow us to provide to our TNT viewers, the greatest package of exclusive, premiere NBA games we've ever had," said Jamie Kellner, Chairman and CEO, TBS, Inc. "Cable operators can look forward to record ratings for these marquee events, providing tremendous value for their subscribers and a greatly enhanced income stream for their local cable ad sales operations, making it a big win for them as well. The strong AOL component to the deal provides a nucleus of AOL Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company and the NBA committed to marketing the league's abundance of dynamic young stars and teams, which makes me feel that the future of the NBA, as a game and as a television property, is a great business to be in."

"With our new exclusivities and the All-Star Game on TNT, this is a landmark deal for cable that keeps Turner Broadcasting and AOL Time Warner in a partnership with the NBA that will now span a remarkable 24 years, which is very rare in television," said Mark Lazarus, President, Turner Entertainment Sales and Marketing and President, Turner Sports. "The NBA on TNT is a franchise fans have come to depend on, and the combination of the resources of our company, along with the new joint venture network, make this deal truly a one-of-a-kind."


Under terms of the new agreement with ABC and ESPN, ABC will be the exclusive over-the-air network for NBA basketball televising 15 Sunday afternoon regular season Games of the Week. ABC will also broadcast NBA Playoff games, including the NBA Finals in primetime. In addition, ABC will televise NBA Inside Stuff, the league's Saturday morning teen magazine show, beginning with the 2002-03 NBA season. ESPN will televise 75 regular season games, with one game Wednesday nights and a doubleheader on Friday nights. ESPN will also exclusively televise one Conference Finals series and an expected 22 games in the first two rounds of the playoffs as well as the NBA Draft, a Draft preview show and NBA Draft Lottery. There will be no local blackouts for ESPN game coverage. The agreement includes extensions of pre-existing deals between ESPN and the NBA covering ESPN Radio, ESPN Classic,, and the NBDL.

“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.”

“For the first time in television history, one network, ESPN, will feature all four major professional sports leagues,” ESPN President George Bodenheimer said. “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 for ESPN to fully realize its value and the programming and promotional power of our company’s numerous media assets will deliver unprecedented NBA coverage to our fans, affiliates and advertisers.”

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

AOL Time Warner division Turner Sports' current four-year agreement with the NBA expires at the end of the 2001-02 season, its 18th year of NBA coverage. ABC previously televised NBA games from the 1962-63 season until the 1972-73 season. ESPN previously televised NBA games in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons.


  • 52 regular season games on an exclusive basis (with no games being televised nationally or locally that night except for one backup game); 48 of the games will air as part of Thursday night doubleheaders in primetime and two Opening Night games
  • Approximately 45 games in the first two rounds of the Playoffs
  • Conference Semi-finals and one Conference Finals series on an exclusive basis
  • NBA All-Star Game and NBA All-Star Saturday events


  • 96 regular season games
  • Expected two Playoff games


  • 15 regular season Games of the Week on Sunday afternoons
  • Expected five Playoff games
  • NBA Finals in primetime beginning at 8:30 pm ET

    NBA Inside Stuff

  • Will air on Saturday mornings


  • 75 regular season games with no local blackouts of ESPN game coverage (one game on Wednesday nights and a doubleheader on Friday nights in primetime)
  • Holiday telecasts, e.g. Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, President’s Day
  • Expected 22 games in the first two rounds of the Playoffs
  • One Conference Finals series on an exclusive basis
  • NBA Draft, Draft preview show and NBA Draft Lottery