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NBA approves new TV contract

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The NBA's new six-year, $4.6 billion TV deals with ABC, ESPN and TNT were completed Tuesday, shifting nearly all of the league's games to cable.

The deals are worth $765 million a year, a 25 percent increase from the $615 million the league made annually in TV rights under the four-year, $2.46 billion deals with NBC and Turner Sports that expire after this season.

It represents the smallest percentage increase in the NBA's TV rights fees since at least 1983. Since then, the league has more than doubled its national TV revenue three times — including the expiring deal — and received a nearly 50 percent increase in the only other contract. Those previous deals were all for four years.

"This is a very substantial increase in a turbulent marketplace. We couldn't be happier," NBA commissioner David Stern said.

While Turner Sports stays on as an NBA partner with TNT, NBC drops pro basketball after 12 years.

The league's regular-season ratings dropped 35 percent from 1997-98 to 2000-01. NBC says it lost more than $100 million a season in its outgoing NBA deal.

In its contract, ABC will air up to 15 regular-season games on Sundays — fewer than half of NBC's coverage — plus five early round playoff games and the NBA Finals.

TV coverage of the East and West conference finals moves completely to cable now, with ESPN and TNT each carrying one of those series each season.

The All-Star game also moves to cable, on TNT.

ESPN and ESPN2 will carry 75 regular-season games, with doubleheaders on Fridays and single games Wednesdays.

ESPN will also have up to 17 early round playoff games.

TNT gets 52 regular-season games, nearly all on Thursday nights, and 45 early round playoff games. TBS will no longer carry NBA games.