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NBA close to $76 billion deal with national TV broadcasters

Negotiations with Comcast's NBC, Amazon's Prime Video and Disney's ESPN are progressing.

Negotiations with Comcast's NBC, Amazon's Prime Video and Disney's ESPN are progressing.

A close-up image of a basketball.
(Stock image)

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is close to securing national televisions deals with at least three distribution partners that would see well over 100 games offered on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms for much of the next decade.

According to the Wall Street Journal, discussions with Comcast’s NBC, Amazon’s Prime Video and the Walt Disney Company’s ESPN have evolved into advanced negotiations over various national television packages that could earn the NBA as much as $76 billion.

The discussions with NBC could see the broadcaster pay as much as $2.5 billion per year to secure a package of around 100 games per year, the Journal said. Half of the games would stream exclusively on Peacock, Comcast’s direct-to-consumer service, while the rest would be broadcast on NBC.

If Comcast emerges as the winner of the package, it would mark the first time NBC has offered nationally-televised basketball games since 2002, though some regional sports networks owned by Comcast continue to offer locally-televised NBA games in markets like Sacrament, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia.

It would also be a loss for Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), which assumed national television rights from NBC in 2002. Since then, WBD has offered regular season and playoff games on TNT and related cable channels. WBD’s rights to those games expire next year.

WBD is still a contender for some NBA games, should the league choose to carve out a smaller package for the broadcaster. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly unlikely that WBD will retain rights to any NBA games, though it could sublicense them from another broadcaster, depending on the circumstances.

Amazon’s Prime Video is nearing a $1.8 billion deal that would give it rights to regular season and playoff games, a package that largely resembles the rights WBD currently holds. The package would also include the NBA’s “play-in” games that determine the seventh and eighth seed in the playoff tournament, and would allow Prime Video to have national distribution rights to some conference finals in rotation with other media partners, the Journal said.

Disney’s ESPN would retain the national distribution rights to some playoff games as well as the NBA Finals, according to the Journal. The package would involve substantially fewer regular-season games than what ESPN currently airs, but would include digital distribution rights, so ESPN could stream the games on its own Internet-based services, including a new one that is set to launch in 2025.

If those agreements go through, the NBA stands to gain $76 billion over the course of 11 years. The rights would activate with the 2025-26 basketball season and last through the mid-2030s.

The package could also devalue Venu Sports, a forthcoming streaming service that ESPN and TNT Sports are developing through a joint venture that includes Fox Corporation. The service is designed to offer access to broadcast and cable channels from the three programmers, including Fox, ABC, ESPN and TNT, without the burdens of ancillary entertainment and news channels and at a lower price point than the typical cable or satellite TV service.

Venu Sports is predicated on the idea that sports fans have significant access to highly-sought events from top organizations like the NBA, the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB). But pro-basketball fans might find Venu Sports less-attractive if WBD loses its basketball package to Prime Video.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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