The NBA is getting ready to negotiate its new media rights deal, and while Disney (ESPN/ABC) and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT) have exclusive negotiation windows through April 2024 to extend their packages, other potential suitors for NBA broadcasts are starting to line up.
While Disney is expected to retain a strong package, there’s a bit more mystery around WBD and what they’ll do — although re-signing the entire Inside the NBA crew longterm is a bit of an indication they’ll look to stay in the NBA business. As such, there’s a real possibility of the first major shakeup to the NBA rights package in 20 years, and it’s a bit fitting that one of the leading contenders is the network that used to carry the league’s premier games.
According to CNBC, NBC is looking to add the NBA back to its portfolio on NBC Sports, seeking a package that includes playoff games.
NBCUniversal executives have informed the NBA of their interest, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. NBC Sports wants a package that would include playoff games to air on NBC’s broadcast network, two of the people said. Some regular season games could be exclusive to NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock. The NBA could also decide to force media companies to simulcast all games on streaming to increase reach, the people said.
Apple and Amazon have also expressed interest to the NBA in buying carved-out streaming packages, said people familiar with the matter. Amazon currently has a deal with the NBA allowing it to stream games in Brazil.
NBC currently only has the NFL on Sunday Night Football among the Big Four men’s sports leagues, with golf, Premier League soccer, and the Olympics as their other main properties. Getting back into NBA broadcasting would be a hefty commitment, and it’ll be interesting to see if the NBA feels there’s enough value in taking a broadcast deal that allows for streaming exclusive games. This is a long way out and far from a certainty, but fans of the 90s NBA will certainly have positive association with the NBA on NBC and the possible return of Roundball Rock.
In short: Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-basketball.
The streaming question is also one that is particularly interesting going into these negotiations, as Adam Silver has voiced his concerns with the current state of regional sports networks and the blackout policy. I think ideally, the NBA would love to include their League Pass product and restructure its blackout rules, not unlike how Apple TV+ took over Major League Soccer’s broadcast rights. The difference, of course, is that the NBA is a much bigger product and it’d probably be a much bigger fight with RSNs to change contracts, but it is an intriguing possibility.