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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

After initially indicating that the 2020-21 season would likely start in January or February, NBA officials are now pushing for a 72-game season starting Dec. 22.

The state of play: There are obvious financial benefits to an earlier start, including the preservation of the league's marquee Christmas games and not having to compete with football again, let alone the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Yes, but: The main reason the NBA changed its mind is that the chief argument for delaying the season — the return of fans — is no longer realistic.

  • A few months ago, there was hope that the virus would wane by February, giving teams the chance to sell tickets and generate other in-stadium revenue, which accounts for roughly 40% of the league's $8 billion annual revenue.
  • But instead of slowing down, infections have reached all-time highs amid the pandemic's third wave, leaving the NBA in no position to bank on a smooth reopening of arenas.

By the numbers: The NBA fell $1.5 billion short of its projected revenue for 2019-20 and believes it will lose another $500 million if its fails to start in December.

  • Those kinds of losses dramatically alter future salary caps and individual salaries, but the players' union remains reluctant to agree to such a short offseason (72 days between the end of last season and Dec. 22).

Looking ahead: The NBA is reportedly developing ways to increase cash flow, including new on-court endorsement signage and more relaxed guidelines on sports betting and hard alcohol partnerships.

  • A play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff spots in each conference is also on the table.
  • It was a success in the bubble and would instantly create new revenue streams for the league and its broadcast partners.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated Jan 27, 2021 - Technology

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Credit: Apple

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Jan 28, 2021 - Sports

The NBA battle for the "second screen" is almost as important as the game itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tonight's NBA doubleheader will be broadcast on TNT, which means the network will almost certainly draw more viewers than its competitors throughout the evening.

Yes, but: While the battle for the "first screen" (broadcast) has already been won, the battle for the "second screen" (social media) will happen in real-time.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Apple raked in $111 billion in revenue in a single quarter

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Big Tech had a strong start to earnings season, as the S&P 500's heavy hitters reported Wednesday after market close.

What happened: Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple had its strongest quarter ever, raking in $111.4 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, far outpacing expectations.