What a relief. Instead of David Stern and Billy Hunter co-starring in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” we get Mariah Carey singing and the Heat and Mavs playing in the traditional Christmas tripleheader.
What a surprise? Not really. Even as the NBA lockout was taking on an endless feel, the timing of the abrupt ending made perfect sense.
Christmas is when games start airing on ABC. That is when it would really start getting painful for the owners.
"We look forward to opening up on Christmas Day," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said during the settlement announcement. "We're excited about bringing the NBA back. That is what's most important."
No. What is most important to the league is keeping all that TV revenue in the vault. That includes $485 million a year from ESPN/ABC and $445 million a year from TNT.
There has already been some loss that must be accounted for, but the stakes amp up significantly when the network portion of the schedule kicks in on Christmas Day. While NBA telecasts generate more than $800 million in advertising revenue, The Wall Street Journal reported that “ad spending is heavily weighted to the latter portion of the NBA season.”
Read between the lines in Commissioner David Stern’s explanation: “The reason for the settlement was we've got fans, we've got players who would like to play and we've got others who are dependent on us.”
The most significant others are their TV partners. Better believe they were doing some arm twisting to get the owners back to the bargaining table.
The NBA would have faced returning the TV money or extending the contracts by a year if the season had been lost. There was also the pending litigation by the players that could have cost the owners $6 billion in damages. But that didn’t carry the immediacy of the situation with television.
The lockout is over now because the owners finally had incentive to cease in seeing how far they could push the players into concessions.