Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Under the pall of the ongoing NBA lockout, a long-term media rights deal is in the works between the Boston Celtics and Comcast SportsNet New England that would extend the team's current agreement by 20 years, hiking its annual rights fee and also giving it a stake in the network, according to the Sports Business Journal.
The talks come five months after the Lakers struck a 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable that will create two new regional sports channels (English and Spanish) starting in the 2012-13 season.
The agreement is still being finalized, according to the Sports Business Journal. Team co-owner Wyc Grousbeck declined comment.
The proposed deal, which could be finalized in the next few weeks, would extend the Celtics’ media deal to 2038 from the current agreement that runs through 2017. In addition, the team would take up to a 20 percent equity stake in the regional sports network and receive a healthy increase in its annual rights fee. The Celtics currently get between $15 million and $20 million annually, which is considered below market for such a strong franchise.
Comcast SportsNet President Jon Litner is the architect of the deal, which will give the Celtics a sizable signing bonus and steep increases in the first few years of the deal, though specific terms are not yet known. The rights fees increases will level off throughout the length of the agreement.
The two sides first started talking about a long-term deal a year ago. Sources said that talks heated up just before the Los Angeles Lakers blockbuster 25-year RSN deal with Time Warner Cable was announced in February. That deal averages $200 million per year. Serious negotiations between the Celtics and Comcast then ensued this spring under the shadow of the league’s labor uncertainty.