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ESPN and ABC, both owned by Disney, and AOL Time Warner inked six-year deals with the NBA to televise pro basketball games beginning with the 2002-2003 season.

But as the companies announced the deal, attention began to turn to what price the networks would pay for the professional basketball coverage - estimated in the press to be around $4.6 billion - and if those costs could lead to rate hikes.

ESPN President George Bodenheimer took that bull by the horns, saying there will be no NBA surcharge. ESPN's carriage deals with most of the major multichannel companies are in place, "and those rates are already agreed upon," he added.

Bodenheimer said ESPN will "more than recoup its investment over time" with its NBA coverage spread across several areas, both on TV and through the Internet. The deal includes ABC Family, which is at the center of a heated carriage dispute between Disney and EchoStar. Executives said ABC Family will have post-game coverage along with other NBA-related programming.

ABC will be the exclusive over-the-air network for the NBA, televising 15 Sunday afternoon games. ABC also will deliver playoff games, including the NBA Finals in primetime. In addition, ABC will televise NBA Inside Stuff, the league's Saturday morning teen show.

ESPN will carry 75 games, with one Wednesday night game and a doubleheader Friday night. ESPN also will exclusively televise a Conference Finals series and an expected 22 games in the first two rounds of the playoffs as well as the NBA Draft, a Draft preview show and NBA Draft Lottery.

Beginning next NBA season, ESPN will carry all four major professional sports leagues - which in addition to the NBA includes NFL football, Major League Baseball and NHL hockey - as well as professional soccer and college sports.

The new agreement with AOL Time Warner calls for TNT to televise 52 games in primetime, 48 of which will be part of Thursday night doubleheaders, as well as the NBA All-Star Game and NBA All-Star Saturday events. TNT will also carry one Conference Finals series and about 45 games in the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs.

From SkyReport (Used with permission)
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