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🏀The Money Behind the NBA Finals
6 minute read · Issue Number 125 · June 17th, 2022
The Golden State Warriors wrapped up an exciting NBA Finals series that fulfilled all expectations after beating out the Boston Celtics 4-2 and taking home their fourth Larry O'Brien championship in the last eight years (#LegendaryStatus).
These finals averaged over 12m viewers per game (up 26% from 2021), making it the most-watched finals series in three years.
Grab a snack and get comfortable – let’s dive into the money and business behind the NBA Finals.
In 2014, the NBA signed a nine-year television deal with ABC, ESPN, and TNT that generates annual league television revenues of ~$2.7 billion running through the 2024–25 season.
It’s the second most expensive television deal in professional sports, right behind the NFL’s.
For the NBA Finals in particular, ABC owns the series' rights through 2025.
Just like the Super Bowl, primetime advertising generates most of the revenue.
According to Statista, by 2018, the cost of a 30-second commercial aired at the NBA Finals averaged $700k. Even though they stopped tracking in 2018, I would bet it costs way more today due to the growing number of viewers tuning in, the rise of streaming, OTT media, and other social networks.
You could argue that $750k pales compared to the $7m it costs to run an ad during the Super Bowl, but remember, the NBA Finals could go up to 7 games – increasing the likelihood of creating awareness and making a lasting impact in fewer viewers.
During the 2019 NBA Finals, the ABC TV network made + $230m in ad revenue from the finals between the Raptors and Warriors (6-game series, ~$40m per game)
For all NBA history – home game attendance, premium seating, merchandise, and non-NBA events during game-day have been a massive business for the hosting arenas.
This year has been no different.
Thousands of fans have attended the Chase Center and the TD Garden at almost sold-out arenas, which haven’t been cheap.
According to Team Marketing Report's research, the Warriors and the Celtics were the second and fourth most expensive teams to watch live during the 2021-22 season:
For this year’s finals:
Game 1 tickets were going for an average price of $873.
Game 2 was starting at $820 after fees.
Games 3 and 4 started at $662 and $955, respectively.
Games 6 and 7 can easily reach a starting price of $1,100 per ticket.
VIP Seats get insanely more expensive: A few court-side seats behind the Chase Center scorer’s table for game seven (which won’t happen) were listed for $116,197 per ticket. However, they’ve ranged from 6k to 22k on average during the NBA Finals series.
The Bottom Line
Besides the rights, ads, and tickets sold, the NBA Finals business brings in millions from partnerships, consumption, and brand awareness through exposure worldwide.
Obviously, due to the nature of the business and the dependency on the number of games, the longer the series goes, the more money the league, teams, and stakeholders can make. That’s why everyone’s kinda cheering for a seven-game series regardless!
🎙 Halftime Snacks Podcast
T.J. Baumbaugh is a former pro racquetball player who has been the active commissioner for the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) since 2016.
She organizes, manages, and promotes women's professional racquetball, the 10-month touring schedule, executive and broadcast teams, and a board of directors.
We discussed TJ's vision for the future and growth of the sport and how technology helps them grow. We also discussed the value of sponsorships, culture, and values of a new sport. Towards the end, we discussed how the LPRT envisions and practices diversity, inclusion, and equity for sports.
Apply to be a guest on the Halftime Snacks Podcast here.