Commentary

Reported NBA Deals Could Change Face Of Sports TV

Who wins and who loses in the blockbuster NBA rights deal that The Wall Street Journal said Thursday is imminent?

On the face of it: NBC and Amazon win, Disney/ESPN stays status quo (sort of), and Warner Bros. Discovery – aka TNT Sports – might be left out in the cold without a rights package at all.

But wait. The devil is in the details. The Journal story said the deals with NBC, Amazon and Disney would add up to a total of $76 billion. The deals all represent steep increases in rights fees, the story said.

The term of the contracts will be 11 years, the Journal reported. Sources in the story were not identified, but referred to as “people familiar with the discussions,” which is WSJ style for unnamed sources.

The front-page story positioned this looming deal as “a defining moment for the TV industry.” The assertion is not far off the mark.

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For one thing, the scenario brings two formerly uninvolved players to the forefront in a big way – Amazon and NBC.

Obviously, Amazon is not a traditional platform for the NBA, but it is nevertheless seeking to make inroads into the top sports attractions. It already has its foot in the NFL door.

How did Amazon horn in on the NBA empire? Two things: deep pockets and penetration. Amazon’s domestic and global reach is undeniable. Everyone has Amazon.

Plus, Amazon can come to any table where huge amounts of money are involved and pay whatever is necessary.

They ran the numbers and concluded they’ll make money from basketball the same way everybody else does – commercials and sponsorships. More Amazon Prime subscriptions will likely result, too.

Amazon’s deal will cost $1.8 billion a year for regular-season games, playoff games, the NBA “in-season” tournament that got its start earlier this season, the “play-in” games at the end of the regular season that determine whether some teams make the playoffs, and “a share of the conference finals,” the Journal said.

And what have we here? NBC Universal is getting back into pro basketball for the first time since 2002, when the company’s last NBA rights deal expired.

NBC already has a Sunday night NFL game that is one of the jewels of network prime time. And, of course, the network is in rotation for the Super Bowl every four years.

But this new reported deal will be far more sprawling than that. According to the Journal, NBCU’s deal will cost the company “an average of” $2.5 billion a year for approximately 100 regular-season games per season with “about half” airing only on Peacock, the story said.

And where will the prime-time games on NBC be slotted? On Sunday nights when there are no NFL games, and Tuesday nights, where it just might do away with scripted and/or reality shows – yes, the very lifeblood of traditional network TV.

If there is anyone who will mourn this loss of a night of traditional prime time, they are not likely to figure into any of NBC’s planning.

Affiliates will love it. And, no offense to “The Voice,” but the games will draw far larger audiences than anything else NBC currently airs there.

And it should go without saying that NBC’s reentry into the NBA is a play aimed at boosting the fortunes of its Peacock streaming service – drawing new subscriptions, and boosting viewership for advertising.

All over the TV biz, the philosophy has become: When all else fails, get a sports package. It applies to TV of every kind – broadcast, streaming, cable and whatever else there is.

For NBC, its NBA deal represents another blue-chip asset in its sports portfolio, which already has the NFL and Olympics.

As for Disney/ESPN, the reported deal will cost $2.6 billion a year. For those fees, the company would keep the NBA Finals (the current finals started last night), but get fewer regular-season games than it has now, the WSJ story said.

Part of the Disney deal would include the rights to air games on the new ESPN+ streamer, due to launch next year, the paper said.

So, what about TNT Sports? The unit of WBD has been a major player in televising NBA games since 1989, including regular-season games and a healthy chunk of the NBA’s many playoff games.

The stars of TNT’s basketball coverage are A-listers, particularly the foursome of Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson, who are among the best-known personalities in all of sports television.

During the regular NBA season and the league’s lengthy and grueling playoff season, the games are a staple of TNT.

Without them, the channel would have little else than old movies running day and night, and stuffed with interminable commercial breaks.

The Journal story said there is still time for WBD to somehow negotiate a piece of the action before the door closes on this round of high-stakes rights deals.

1 comment about "Reported NBA Deals Could Change Face Of Sports TV".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, June 8, 2024 at 12:56 a.m.

    NBA on Amazon is going to be a flop just like TNF as I don't believe in any of those numbers to begin with as it is just spin to make it look like it is doing well on streaming when it isn't. Just like those NBA games on Peacock which some of those games should be USA which hasn't aired an NBA game since 1984 the last NBA program was the 1984 NBA Draft when Michael Air Jordan was drafted number 3 by the Bulls.

    I wonder if WBD will sell NBA TV if they don't get a new NBA deal which they will also get some CFP games along with US Men's & Women's Soccer from time to time. TNT isn't really out of the sports game along with the NHL as well.

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