By Peter Gleason

Remember four years ago when Josh Harris and his investment group plucked the Sixers off the scrap heap for a reported $280 million?

It turned out that was an inflated number, propagated by Ed Snider, who as Sixers owner ran the team and franchise into the ground in the 15 years he was “in charge”.

Four years later, two bright new stars — Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor — have given Sixers fans something to cheer for on the court, and off the court?

Check out Forbes magazine:

The Sixers’ franchise value rose from $469 million to $700 million in the last year, because the NBA last fall signed a nine-year, $24 billion TV contract with ESPN that starts next season.

That ranks the Sixers’ value No. 27 out of 30 NBA teams. Forbes estimated the Sixers’ 2015 revenue at $125 million and operating income at $24.4 million.

Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil (above) said he imagines a day when the Sixers’ on-court success could be live-streamed over the Internet directly to paying fans/customers, while skipping the regional sports network. For now, and through 2029, the Sixers are tied to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

“The basic backbone of sports has been built on media deals,” O’Neil told the Inky in a recent interview in his office at the Navy Yard. “If you look at the viewing habits over the last five years and those projected over the next five years, you can make an argument that sports will be the one piece holding the current infrastructure of television and cable together.”

On Sunday, the NFL live-streamed online an entire football game, through Yahoo!, for the first time.

The Sixers and five other NBA teams had all their 2014-15 games live-streamed through a Comcast regional sports network. As of now, though, CSN Philadelphia – and not the Sixers – gets the revenue from the live-streaming of games, and the Sixers get promotional spots, said CSN Philadelphia president Brian Monihan.

According to CSN Philadelphia’s data from last season, there were 45,000 live streams of Sixers games for a total of 1.8 million minutes over 82 games, with 70 percent of the live starts and 53 percent of the live minutes coming from mobile devices.

PricewaterhouseCooper predicted this month that media rights revenue would exceed ticket revenue for North American sports leagues by 2018.

O’Neil did not mention CSN Philadelphia by name, but later he said the partnership was good. Still, at his direction, the Sixers now call their home arena “The Center,” leaving out the “Wells Fargo” part because the bank pays Comcast for the naming rights but not the Sixers.

His comments come as debate swirls at the business intersection of media, sports, and technology regarding cord cutting, in which customers drop cable TV and use only the Internet. Comcast is also a dominant Internet provider in this area, but it does not control every Internet pipeline nationwide.

“What’s interesting for us is that the local RSN regional sports network will come under more pressure than the national (provider), I think,” O’Neil said. “If they do, at some point, something is going to break.

“If you talk to our young aspiring superstars,” O’Neil said of the Sixers’ players and sales reps, “they are all the same age and ask them how many have cable TV. It would be an interesting discussion. They pull most stuff off the Web, which means their phone.”

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