Saturday December 9, 2023

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO: We Don’t Need the NBA

  • “We don’t have to have the NBA,” says Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
  • Turner currently has deals with Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
An NBA on TNT camera at a basketball game.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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Imagine Turner Sports’ “Inside the NBA” studio show — with no live games to analyze.

That was the possibility dangled by David Zaslav, chief executive officer of Turner parent Warner Bros. Discovery during an investor conference in New York on Tuesday.

The NBA’s current media rights deals with TNT and Disney’s ESPN — worth a combined $24 billion — expire after the 2024-25 season. The league will be seeking a mammoth, long-term rights package worth as much as $75 billion

  • With the U.S. ad market still weak, Zaslav will bring a “disciplined” approach to NBA negotiations, claiming, “We don’t have to have the NBA.” 
  • The company has deals with Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
  • Any deal would likely have to include streaming.
  • Front Office Sports previously reported the NBA will likely split off an exclusive package of streaming-only games — Zaslav suggested HBO Max as a platform.

Balancing Act 

Facing deep-pocketed challengers like Amazon Prime Video and Apple, TNT and ESPN can’t promise to break the bank — or they’ll lose their leverage in negotiations.

TNT recently finalized contract extensions with the cast of “Inside the NBA,” including Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson — a clear signal that Zaslav is prepared to go to the mat for NBA rights.

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