ESPN and TNT Could Lose Nearly $700 Million if the NBA Season is Canceled

Mark Ralston_AFP via Getty Images (1)
Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

America’s sports leagues and the sports networks who broadcast them, are taking brutal financial hits during the coronavirus shut down, according to a look at the numbers by the Wall Street Journal.

The financial loss comes in a myriad of forms including lost ad revenue, lost ticket sales, lost TV revenue, licensing, and other sources, according to the Journal.

On the TV side, for instance, ESPN could lose as much as $481 million in ad revenue lost if the NBA cancels its final games and playoffs. An NBA shut down could cost WarnerMedia’s TNT $211 million, as well.

This is aside from the $400 million that the NBA itself already lost when China canceled its association with the league over last year’s flap over tweets in support of the Hong Kong democracy movement.

The above is only the loss felt from basketball. There are other sports in the cross hairs, too.

Major League Baseball players are already feeling the pinch, the paper says, and the league has agreed to float players a $170 million advance on salaries to help them plan for a more prolonged shutdown. Baseball may yet get its season in, but Open Day has already been pushed off.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also hastened to point out that the league’s year was close to its end as the coronavirus hit, so they could quickly finish once the quarantines are over.

Meanwhile, the NFL insists that while it will lose a lot of money if the shutdowns last too much longer, insiders don’t feel that their valuation will be much affected. Pro football has the luxury of time that some of the other leagues don’t since the NFL’s 2020 season is not set to kick off until September.

The shutdown and subsequent loss of revenue could also affect the valuation of teams across all sports, but the paper’s analysis found that ultimately unlikely in a reality where sports valuation has been on the rise in recent decades.

The big leagues, though, are also backed by even bigger money as owners are by necessity billionaires who may be able to sustain the coronavirus hit. Major League Soccer and multiple women’s sports, though, operate on much thinner margins. And many of these teams are facing bankruptcy if the sports blackout lasts too long.

Overseas, as many as a dozen lower-tier soccer teams in Europe are looking to the Premier League for a bailout, and if they don’t get it, they say they may end up folding.

This is all not even to consider the loss to other sports like horse and auto racing, tennis, and golf, most of which get into the swing in the quickly approaching summer months.

The final reckoning is months away, granted. But whatever happens, the coronavirus has put a pinch on the entire sports world.

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