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Sunday, June 16, 2024

TNT Signs ‘Inside the NBA’ Cast To Long-Term Contract Extensions

  • Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson extend their deals.
  • TNT and ESPN are courting the NBA in advance of media rights negotiations.
Credit: TNT

Let the NBA’s billion-dollar media rights negotiations begin.

Warner Bros. Discovery announced long-term contract extensions with the cast of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” on Monday: Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson.

The NBA’s U.S. media rights with incumbents TNT and ESPN expire after the 2024-205 season. 

The contact extensions for the cast (which sources said run for 10 years) signal that the cost-cutting new management at Warners Bros. Discovery are willing to do what it takes to re-up with the NBA — and fend off deep-pocketed bidders Amazon and Apple

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The long-running “Inside the NBA” has won 17 Emmys and is widely recognized as the best studio show in sports TV. The announcement came just one day before tipoff of the NBA’s 2022-23 season with a TNT doubleheader.

“Our partnership with the NBA is very important to us and this long-term agreement with the ‘Inside the NBA’ team is recognition of their significance to that relationship,” said Luis Silberwasser, chairman and chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports. “‘Inside the NBA’ epitomizes the creativity and innovative spirit we’ve established throughout our successful, long-standing partnership with the league.”

Added Barkley: “We’re all a big family — Ernie, Kenny, and Shaquille are brothers to me — and I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for them and all the amazing people who work on our show. I’m not gonna lie, though, this is a life-altering deal…and I’m blessed to be able to do live television for a living.”

With the NFL invading the NBA’s long-time programming showcase on Christmas with its own tripleheader, Disney’s ESPN is also courting the NBA in advance of media rights negotiations. 

For the first time, ESPN will simulcast all five of its NBA Christmas Day games both on its own network and sister broadcast network ABC. That should generate some additional viewership since ESPN’s distribution has dropped to 76 million homes vs. over 100 million for free, over-the-air broadcast networks like ABC, CBS and NBC.

The NBA will be seeking upwards of $75 billion for its next long-term media rights package. TNT and ESPN are currently paying a combined $24 billion over nine years, or $2.6 billion annually.

Amazon Prime Video fired a shot across the bows of incumbent ESPN and TNT on Monday by announcing a deal to exclusively stream up to 87 live games in Brazil this season, including up to 24 playoff games. 

The e-commerce giant took over as the exclusive partner of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package this season. Now it wants the NBA next.

Sources say Amazon believes its strong early performance with TNF makes it an appealing potential rights partner for the NBA in the U.S.

“We are incredibly excited to expand our relationship with the NBA and give Brazilian basketball fans access to live NBA games and other exciting NBA content,” said Marie Donoghue, Amazon’s global sports video vice president about the Brazil deal. “This NBA content will bolster our already substantial global slate of sports content available on Prime Video.”

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