In 2014 the NBA signed a nine-year, $24 billion contract, starting in 2016, with ESPN that promised a bright future for players and the league. Even at the time the agreed-on amount was seen as a bubble, which would eventually burst. The ESPN firings of Marc Stein, Chad Ford, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Henry Abbott, among others, puts a chill on what happens after the current contract expires in 2025.
The Miami Heat face tough decisions on spending for contracts, arena renovations, content generation strategies going forward. Contract negotiations for a new deal between the NBA and ESPN begin in about six years, with the realization that players may have to take significant pay cuts once the present agreement ends.
The network has lost 12 million subscribers over the past five years and launched a company-wide reform that included shaking up many of its traditional shows and letting go of familiar faces.
Streaming media such as Apple TV and Netflix redefine how fans consume sporting events and the relevant platforms for today’s and tomorrow’s audiences. A 2017 draft pick may not enjoy the lucrative future contracts of today’s stars when they reach their prime in six years. Today’s headliners may have to reign in their future expectations on what they can demand from the teams, due to the coming economic reality.
As a side note, 2017 NBA draft picks are not being chased by the major shoe companies either.
An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball.
Never in the history of modern-day shoe endorsements have the big companies all stepped away from a potential top pick nearly two months before the NBA draft.
Heat management probably will think twice before inking long-term contracts, which might be sizable money-losers in future years. Pat Riley hinted whales could become an extinct species in the next decade, when he commented about not chasing them this summer. He probably had a feeling that long-term commitments to max players could hinder Miami’s flexibility in adapting to change in viewing habits.
The unexpected ESPN firings of Chad Ford, Marc Stein, et al, as well as lack of sneaker deals, shows no one is immune to economic laws. As Miami approaches this summer’s free agency period, we’ll see how the realignment of ESPN’s coverage affects what Miami is willing to pay to snare “max” players. The Heat might go fishing for barracudas and sharks, instead of whales.