The NBA’s current broadcast partners have to be happy with the inaugural edition of the in-season tournament.
Group-stage games on ESPN and TNT averaged 1.5 million viewers — a 26% increase from last season’s comparable windows — while local telecasts saw a similar 20% boost.
Next season, those media entities will hope for more of the same. But as the tournament grows, the viewership benefits might be seen elsewhere.
The NBA will explore selling in-season tournament games as their own broadcast package during the next set of media rights deals. The current ones will expire following the 2024-25 season. Potential bidders have been said to include Netflix, though with varying assessments of the streamer’s actual interest. Meanwhile, Amazon isn’t being shy about wanting to acquire at least some NBA rights.
Selling the in-season tournament to a single broadcaster would be an easy way for the NBA to bring on a new media partner and likely boost its overall rights fee intake, similar to NASCAR’s new deals, which include small midseason packages with Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery.
But that scenario could prevent some novel broadcast mashups.
On Thursday, ESPN and TNT are each airing one of the two semifinal games, and the networks are collaborating on crossover coverage, implementing each other’s on-air personalities.
“This is the first step in something that potentially could create other opportunities [in] the future,” TNT Sports executive vice president and chief content officer Craig Barry said to Front Office Sports. David Roberts, ESPN’s head of event studio production, echoed that sentiment: “This is just a starting point.”.
Next April, after an exclusive negotiating period with Disney and WBD, the NBA’s full set of media rights will be open for bidding — the in-season tournament included.