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Friday, June 21, 2024

NBA Media-Rights Talks ‘in Fourth Quarter.’ Here’s What We Know

  • The league looks to be leaning toward ESPN, NBC, and Amazon.
  • Longtime partner TNT may be on the outside looking in.
May 22, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) controls the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) in the fourth quarter during game one of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is heading into Memorial Day weekend without having publicly announced a new set of media-rights deals. However, the league appears to be getting close to completing several pacts that will likely bring in at least double the $2.7 billion in annual fees the NBA currently gets from ESPN and TNT.

It has been widely reported that Disney’s ESPN is set to renew its deal with the NBA, while new broadcast partners NBC and Amazon are on tap to join the fray, leaving incumbent TNT out in the cold. Here’s what we know:

ESPN: Disney, which owns the sports network, is believed to be on track to keep its “A” package of NBA rights, which include being the exclusive home of the NBA Finals. ESPN’s rights fee is reportedly doubling from $1.4 billion per year to $2.8 billion annually over the 10-year deal. NBA games should continue to be a regular fixture on ESPN and ABC throughout the season and playoffs.

NBC: The network that had NBA rights during the peak of the Michael Jordan Bulls era appears to be hitting the court once again. With a bid said to be valued at $2.5 billion annually, the Comcast-owned network would take over the NBA’s “B” package that TNT has in the current deal, which expires after the 2024–25 season. NBC can offer free, over-the-air broadcast network exposure that TNT, a cable channel, cannot.

Amazon: The streamer is reportedly offering $1.8 billion per season to put some NBA regular-season and playoff games on Prime Video. Amazon could end up with key assets like the newly rebranded Emirates NBA Cup in-season tournament and international broadcast rights.

TNT: The home of Inside the NBA may no longer have a league media package, unless something drastic changes in the coming days. TNT parent company Warner Bros. Discovery has a matching clause in some form in its NBA deal, but the exact terms of that clause are unclear. Right now, it looks like WBD has gotten outbid and the NBA is ready to move on.

Insider Perspective

To get a pulse on what to expect next, we checked in with Front Office Sports media reporter Michael McCarthy. “The negotiations are in the fourth quarter,” our colleague says. “Warner Bros. Discovery has matching rights to offers from third-party bidders. But at press time, there were still no official offers to match. When they come in from NBC and Amazon, WBD CEO David Zaslav will have a big decision to make. Will he effectively pay more for a lesser NBA package? Or does he decline to match higher bids as NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol did in 2002? Does Zaslav want to go down as the WBD CEO who lost the NBA and Charles Barkley’s Inside the NBA?”

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