NBA's Silver sees win-win in bidding war for Fox

Jun 21, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks before the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

By Carl O'Donnell

SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he expected the league to benefit from a battle between Comcast Corp and Walt Disney Co. for Twenty-First Century Fox Inc , regardless of which suitor pulls ahead.

"I think whatever happens will be positive for us," the head of the National Basketball Association (NBA) told reporters on Wednesday in Sun Valley, Idaho, where investment bank Allen & Co is hosting an annual get-together for technology, telecommunications and media executives.

Last month, pay-TV provider Comcast attempted to intrude on Disney's agreement to acquire Fox with a $65 billion cash bid. Disney has since raised its agreed upon price to around $71 billion in cash and stock.

Silver hinted that in the fight for Fox, he was rooting for Disney, which pays his league richly to carry its games. The NBA struck a more than $20 billion deal with Disney and Turner Broadcasting in 2014 for its games to appear on ABC, ESPN and TNT.

"I am a big (Disney CEO) Bob Iger fan of course. Disney is one of our partners so in a way I'm rooting for them," Silver said.

He added that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts "is a superb executive as well," and that the cable company's regional sports networks carries its basketball games.

Silver said he is also looking forward to working with pay-TV provider AT&T Inc , the new home of its games on Turner, as it integrates the acquisition of Time Warner Inc .

Silver said that interest from technology companies such as Amazon in sports rights is also "positive" and that tech is giving fans a better experience watching media across devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Live sports remains valuable for advertisers because viewers are willing to pay and watch it for long periods in real-time.

While there is increasing competition between broadcasters, technology companies and cable operators for live sports, analysts have said sports rights could face pressure in the future as media firms consolidate and get more pricing power.

Last month, the NBA extended Silver's contract until the 2023-24 season and under his leadership it has become one of the most business savvy sports leagues.

The NBA has found new revenue streams in recent years such as selling advertising on its players' jerseys.

(Reporting by Carl O'Donnell in Sun Valley, Idaho; Editing by Liana B. Baker and Darren Schuettler)

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