Saturday, July 20, 2024

NBA Inches Closer To Locking Up $76 Billion In Media Rights Deals

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The NBA is moving ever closer to clinching a set of media rights deals worth a total of $76 billion, even as uncertainty continues to swirl around the league’s future with longtime partner Turner Sports.

NBCUniversal, Amazon Prime Video and Disney/ESPN have all finalized their packages, a person familiar with the negotiations told Deadline. The 11-year deals will start after the 2024-25 season.

A series of press reports have linked the media and tech firms to the NBA for several weeks. The holdup in a formal announcement from the league or media partners has stemmed from Turner and parent Warner Bros. Discovery looking for ways to retain rights after nearly four decades. While Turner has appeared to be on the outside looking in, it reportedly has matching rights and is looking to match Amazon’s offer, which is for a thinner slice of games. Prime Video, as it did with the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package, is aiming to introduce itself in a somewhat limited fashion as an exclusive streaming destination.

The Athletic first reported the NBCU/Amazon/Disney news, saying contracts with those three will be ratified by the NBA board of governors and then forwarded to WBD for their review. Since taking the helm of the company as CEO in 2022, David Zaslav has systematically cut billions in costs, at times provoking the creative community by ditching finished projects in the name of tax benefits or other financial gain. Asked about the rights situation, he made headlines at a 2023 investor conference by saying, “We don’t need the NBA.” Charles Barkley, co-host of TNT’s popular studio show Inside the NBA, has lambasted the company for its handling of the rights talks, which began with an exclusive window during which WBD could have reached a renewal.

At the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley on Wednesday, though, Zaslav affirmed the company has matching rights and intends to try to leverage them. It could also pursue legal options, though reports have differed about the feasibility of that strategy. The company does enjoy a unique position with the NBA, not only as a longtime rightsholder but as the media company that operates website NBA.com as well as production and technical aspects of cable channel NBA TV.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, long before negotiations, said he believed $75 billion was a realistic target. It would be more than triple the $24 billion paid in the previous deals in 2014.

For NBCU, the pact marks a return to the NBA after the company’s rights were taken over by ESPN in 2002. NBC’s coverage of the league, punctuated by the jaunty “Roundball Rock” theme song, is sealed in the annals of history given that it coincided with the rise of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty and the league’s explosion in popularity on the global stage.

None of the parties would offer a comment when contacted by Deadline.

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