Latest On NBA’s Media Rights Negotiations

With the exclusive negotiating window for the NBA, ESPN, and TNT Sports set to close at the end of the day on Monday, Andrew Marchand of The Athletic checks in on where things stand for the league and its next media rights deal, with the current agreement set to expire at the end of the 2024/25 season.

As Marchand details, ESPN/ABC and TNT remain “intensely” interested in retaining their NBA rights and may well do so, but the league anticipates reaching deals on at least three separate TV packages – and possibly four – so at least one new partner is expected to enter the mix.

While the league will almost certainly talk to major streamers like Netflix, Apple, and Google/YouTube, the perceived favorite among those streamers is Amazon Prime Video, according to Marchand, who observes that Amazon has had success with an NFL Thursday Night Football package. Amazon is only interested in an NBA deal if it can secure a regular season and postseason package of “high-level” games, sources tell Marchand.

NBC, which was a key NBA partner during the era in which Michael Jordan‘s Bulls won six championships, remains interested in reuniting with the league, Marchand writes. NBC Universal chairman Mark Lazarus was with TNT when it brought the NBA to its network and has close ties with top league officials, per Marchand, who adds that NBC could incorporate its own streaming service (Peacock) into a potential agreement.

Back in 2014, the NBA struck a nine-year, $24 billion agreement with ESPN/ABC and TNT Sports well before their exclusive negotiating window closed, but the negotiations this time around are more complex, given the changing media landscape and the league’s desire to make streaming its principal distribution method, Marchand writes.

Here’s more from The Athletic’s report:

  • The NBA is seeking contracts of at least 10 years in its next media deal, according to Marchand.
  • The league is expected to look into the idea of partnering with a company like ESPN, Amazon, Apple, or Google/YouTube (or possibly more than one of them) to offer local games direct to viewers, Marchand says. The model the NBA is considering wouldn’t give those outlets exclusive local rights, but would be intended to give as many fans as possible access to games locally as cable diminishes.
  • Currently, ABC airs the NBA Finals, while ESPN and TNT show the conference finals. Those companies want to retain those high-end playoff series, but the idea of a streamer like Amazon getting the rights to conference finals or even NBA Finals games at some point in the next decade is a real possibility, says Marchand.
  • Given the increasing popularity of women’s college basketball stars, led by Caitlin Clark, there’s optimism about the WNBA receiving a significant bump in viewership in the coming years. WNBA media rights will be part of these negotiations, and – as Marchand puts it – the women’s league has “more currency in these negotiations than the last ones by a wide margin.”
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