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Monday, May 27, 2024

NBC Ready to Spend Billions to Elbow Turner Out of NBA

  • NBC previously had NBA rights from 1990 to 2002. 
  • Amazon is near a streaming deal with the NBA.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

NBC is trying to pull off a late-game steal against Warner Bros. Discovery. 

As the NBA negotiates its next media-rights deal, NBC is preparing a $2.5 billion package annually to air games in an attempt to squeeze out Turner Sports, a longtime partner of the league. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The NBA’s media-rights negotiations are ongoing with Amazon and longtime partner Disney/ESPN is also in the mix. 

NBC is no stranger to the NBA. The network had the rights to games from 1990 to 2002, when Michael Jordan and the Bulls dominated the league, and the network’s “Roundball Rock” song has become an icon of that era. NBC Sports currently has broadcasters Noah Eagle and Mike Tirico on its roster, both of whom have extensive experience calling NBA games.

Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of Turner Sports and TNT, has previously paid roughly $1.2 billion per year under its current deal, making NBC’s reported offer more than double WBD’s. David Zaslav, the company’s notorious chief executive, said in 2022, “We don’t need the NBA,” before reversing course a year later when he said he was hopeful of being in the next media-rights deal but that “it will probably look a little bit different.” Zaslav has extensively cut costs in recent years.

The Journal reported that NBC’s package would include regular-season and playoff games with the ability to watch them on Peacock, its streaming service.

Should NBC succeed, it would bring into question the future of Turner Sports’ talk show Inside the NBA. The quartet of Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Ernie Johnson is revered by fans for their humor and unpredictability; just this week, Barkley made the city of Galveston, Texas, a household name to NBA fans. If the NBA does break up with Turner, WBD would still have the men’s NCAA tournament rights as well as MLB and NHL in its remaining sports arsenal.

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