NBA Flips Channel, Decides to Play Ball With NBC in 1990

<i> From Associated Press</i>

NBC, which lost its baseball package to CBS last year, took away the NBA from its rival today with a four-year, $600-million bid for broadcast rights beginning in the 1990-91 season, network officials said.

The deal continued the vast escalation in prices for sports on TV and continued the breakup of the traditional alliances between leagues and networks. NBC has not broadcast the NBA since 1960.

Baseball, which had been on NBC since 1947, goes to CBS starting in 1990 under a four-year, $1.06-billion deal. The Olympics, once a domain of ABC, are on NBC and CBS through at least 1994.

CBS has broadcast the NBA since the 1973-74 season.


“CBS regrets the loss of the NBA broadcast rights after an 18-year relationship,” CBS President Neal Pilson said. “However, the increase in the total cost of the package sought by the league from $176 million to approximately $650 million for the next four years was substantially more than we were prepared to pay. We wish the NBA a successful future and extend our congratulations to NBC. We look forward to our coverage of the NBA in the 1989-90 season.”

Under the new NBA deal, NBC will show 20 regular-season games in the 1990-91 season. There will be a November Sunday broadcast, a Christmas telecast and a regular series of Sunday afternoon games beginning in January, 1991.

NBC will show up to 30 playoff games, all in the afternoon or prime time.

CBS, under its contract that expires at the end of the season, had shown games at 11:30 p.m. EST from the West Coast.


NBC, however, will have those games start during prime time in the East, so as not to interfere with the highly rated “Tonight Show.”

The NBA’s current contract with CBS was a four-year contract for $176 million, meaning a 371% increase per year on average.

The NBA, under Commissioner David Stern, has made a complete business turnaround during the 1980s.

The league’s image, hurt by admissions of drug use in the late 1970s, improved with a drug agreement between the league and the NBA Players Assn.


At the same time, stars such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing became the high-profile draws needed to fill arenas and raise TV ratings.

The NBA also pushed back the start of its season until November, after the completion of the World Series. It also lessened competition with the NFL.