The biggest sports media question in 2023 will be if the NBA will join forces with a tech streaming giant such as Amazon or Apple.
Given its performance in its first exclusive season showing the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football,” Amazon’s NFL host Charissa Thompson “absolutely” believes the tech giant can handle an NBA rights package.
The NBA will be seeking $50 to $75 billion long-term in its next cycle of media rights negotiations.
The league’s incumbents, Disney’s ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Turner Sports, both want to retain their rights. Although Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav set the industry buzzing by publicly warning, “We don’t have to have the NBA.”
When the deals with ESPN and Turner Sports expire following the 2024-25 season, the networks would have paid a combined $24 billion.
During its first season exclusively streaming TNF, Amazon Prime Video has built an All-Star announce team, including game-callers Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit, and Kaylee Hartung. Plus, studio analysts Thompson, Tony Gonzalez, Richard Sherman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Andrew Whitworth, features reporter Taylor Rooks and news analyst Michael Smith for the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows.
Through its first 13 TNF streams this season, Amazon is averaging 9.67 million viewers, according to Nielsen. TNF on Prime viewers have a median age of 47 years old — eight years younger than the NFL average on broadcast networks.
“If there’s ever a precedent to support that (Amazon) can do it, all we have to point to is covering the largest sport in our country — and doing it at the high level,” Thompson told Front Office Sports.
“When you’re able to have the individuals that they have in the booth, and behind the scenes, and on our desk with those guys, I think it’s pretty evident at this point Prime Video and Amazon would welcome covering more sports. And would be well-equipped to do so.”
Thompson knows whereof she speaks. She quarterbacks not one but two national NFL pregame shows: “TNF Tonight” for Amazon on Thursday nights and “Fox NFL Kickoff” for Fox Sports on Sunday mornings.
Jared Stacy, Amazon’s director of global live sports production, calls Thompson the “MVP” of the streamer’s first exclusive season of TNF coverage.
Amazon’s exclusive $1 billion a year to stream the NFL’s TNF through 2033 is the eCommerce giant’s biggest sports deal to date. But the industry disruptor has also built a portfolio of sports rights around the world.
- The NFL, MLB (New York Yankees), MLS (Seattle Sounders), Overtime Elite in the U.S.
- Premier League, U.S. Open, ATP, and WTA in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
- UEFA Champions League in Germany and Italy.
- Roland Garros in France.
- Australian swimming globally.
- New Zealand cricket in India.
“When you look at the events we’ve done even in the last year — Champions League in Germany and Italy, Djokovic vs. Nadal in France, Premier League in the UK, and TNF in the United States — we feel great about our ability to deliver any event anywhere in the world,” Stacy said.
NBA ‘Fascinated’ By Amazon
The interest between the NBA and Amazon appears to be mutual and growing.
In May 2021, Amazon signed a multi-year deal to stream 16 WNBA games per season.
Last fall, Amazon followed that up with a deal to stream the NBA’s 2022-2023 season in Brazil.
The NBA, meanwhile, has taken notice of Amazon’s ability to deliver a younger audience for the NFL. As well as its inventive use of alternate streams, such as NBA superstar LeBron James’ version of TNF via his own show, “Uninterrupted The Shop.”
“What Amazon is obviously doing with the NFL fascinates me,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said during an SBJ conference in November. “Just as important to us, is the newfound ways of producing these games, of customizing them, personalizing them for consumers.”