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Amazon Is Proving It’s A Contender To Land NBA Rights

  • The NBA's next multi-year rights package could fetch $50 billion to $75 billion.
  • Amazon proving it can draw younger, harder-to-reach viewers.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Amazon is off to a strong start with the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.” Given its early success, the e-commerce giant is making the case that it can take on the next mega sports rights package: the NBA.

The NBA’s current U.S. media deals with Disney’s ESPN/ABC and Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT expire after the 2024-25 season.

The league will likely seek $50 billion to $75 billion for its next multi-year package, said sources. Amazon is paying the NFL around $1 billion a year to exclusively stream TNF through 2033.

Amazon has long been cited as a potential NBA bidder. But every week it defies expectations with TNF, that theory becomes more of a reality.

“The (NBA) has certainly done very well for a long time with ESPN and Turner. But interest in the league — and its strategic importance — are only growing,” said John Kosner, the former NBA and ESPN executive turned investor and advisor.

Amazon Continues Strong ‘Thursday Night Football’ Viewership

Amazon averaged 13.4 million viewers for third exclusive TNF’ stream.
October 3, 2022

Commissioner Adam Silver’s NBA is the most technology-forward sports league. Amazon believes TNF’s better-than-anticipated performance — and built-in audience of over 200 million Amazon Prime customers — makes it attractive to the global NBA, said sources. 

  • By Nielsen data, TNF is averaging 11.3 million viewers — up 11% from the first four games last year across NFL Network and a tri-cast of Fox Sports, NFLN, and Amazon. 
  • By its own metrics, Amazon Prime Video is averaging 13.3 million viewers for TNF through four games. 
  • Amazon is proving it can draw a harder-to-reach audience: TNF viewers are eight years younger (46 years old) than those on TV networks. 
  • TNF is averaging 2.7 million viewers in the advertiser-coveted 18-34 demographic, up 67% from last year.  

The NBA has already embraced streaming in China. The league boasts a $1.5 billion-a-year deal with Tencent Holdings that enables it to reach over 500 million basketball fans in China. 

Similar to the U.S., that rights deal runs through the 2024-25 season.

Big Tech vs. Legacy Media

The NBA surpassed $10 billion in revenue for the first time with the 2021-2022 season. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon won’t get the NBA without a fight. ESPN and TNT will battle to retain their packages, said sources. 

The two companies will pay the NBA a combined $24 billion under the current nine-year deal, which kicked in during the 2016-17 season. 

It’s still to be determined how the NBA will split up the next rights package. Sports betting giants will also be looking to carve off a piece of NBA media rights to create a “watch and bet” environment, said sources.

With a bidding war looming between tech and TV competitors, the NBA’s almost certain to double its current rights fees to at least $50 billion, said sources. 

That would jack up its annual media payout to the $5 billion range from the current $2.6 billion. ESPN pays $1.4 billion vs. TNT’s $1.2 billion (ESPN’s sister Disney network ABC gets exclusive rights to the NBA Finals). 

But the bidding could go even higher. CNBC previously reported the NBA could seek $75 billion for its next rights package. Amazon and the NBA declined to comment.

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