The NBA is poised to sell a billion-dollar package of streaming-only games under its next media rights package, sources tell Front Office Sports.
The lure of an exclusive package of live games is likely to attract the world’s biggest streamers, including Amazon and Apple. Bidding for the streaming-only package is likely to start at $1 billion a year, estimated sports media consultant Patrick Crakes.
The NBA will be seeking $50 billion to $75 billion for its next long-term rights package starting in 2025. That would double or triple its current nine-year, $24 billion deal with Disney’s ABC/ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT that pays the league $2.6 billion a year.
Under the current deal signed in 2014, streaming comes under the league’s own media platforms, ESPN, TNT, and the various regional sports networks (RSNs) showing local games.
But the top sports leagues want to attract as many bidders as possible for their media rights — while also getting into business with the technology giants. That’s why the NFL moved “Thursday Night Football” to Amazon Prime Video under a $1 billion a year deal that runs through 2033.
When asked about streaming, an NBA spokesperson said: “We value our media rights partnerships with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery and we know our fans have come to expect us to deliver content through both traditional and emerging methods.”
Amazon has made it clear it wants an NBA package along with the NFL, said one source.
Amazon just signed a deal to stream 87 live games, including playoff games, in Brazil during the 2022-2023 season. LeBron James, the league’s biggest star, will co-host an alternate stream of TNF for Amazon during the Green Bay Packers-Tennessee Titans game on Nov. 17
“Amazon is locked and loaded for a shot at the NBA,” said a source.
Amazon’s TNF audiences have been sliding since a big debut this season. But the e-commerce giant believes the broadcast TV-like quality of its NFL telecasts, and ability to attract younger viewers, will make it attractive to Commissioner Adam Silver’s technology-forward NBA.
But Apple dwarfs even Amazon in annual sales and market capitalization. Apple has slowly but surely moved into live sports, signing a landmark $2.5 billion, 10-year deal with Major League Soccer and a package of Friday Night Baseball games from Major League Baseball for $85 million a year.
NBA owners are chomping at the bit to enter the growing direct-to-consumer sports market. Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer just launched his own streaming platform dubbed “ClipperVision.”
How big would the NBA’s streaming package be?
Look for a starting package of 20-40 games during the NBA’s 19-week regular season, said Crakes, the former Fox Sports executive turned media consultant. That’s one or two games a week.
ESPN and TNT would both want games for their own streaming platforms. Plus, the league’s incumbent media partners can use their back-end rights for leverage, noted Crakes. That means the games are likely to be peeled off the inventory controlled by RSNs.
Said Crakes: $1 billion would get the NBA close to $7 billion a year (in annual rights fees.) Also, I think (the NBA) will do a short-term deal. 4-5 years.”