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WBD CEO says company still interested in NBA games for TNT

David Zaslav says TNT wants to remain a global leader in sports, but needs to pursue rights deals that make solid financial sense.

David Zaslav says TNT wants to remain a global leader in sports, but needs to pursue rights deals that make solid financial sense.

(From left) Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley on the set of “NBA on TNT” in November 2023. (Still frame via TNT Sports broadcast)

Long-term national telecast rights to a package of NBA games are still up in the air after next season, and the CEO of Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) says it would be wrong to count them out.

At an investor event last Thursday, WBD CEO David Zaslav said his company still wants to be known as “a leader in the sports world,” and is still interested in grabbing some NBA games after its current rights deal expires next year.

Currently, ESPN and WBD’s TNT Sports share national broadcast rights to the NBA’s regular season and playoff games. ESPN holds the rights to the NBA “A” package, while TNT Sports airs the “B” package of games.

Sports and financial news outlets have rumored that Comcast’s NBC is a contender for the “B” package after next season, which would the first time the network has offered national telecasts of pro basketball since 2002. Amazon’s Prime Video is also interested in offering NBA games, according to reports.

WBD currently pays around $2 billion per season for the NBA “B” package. Comcast has offered at least $2.5 billion per season, according to the Sports Business Journal, and WBD would need to pay at least $2.8 billion or more to trump that offer — money it may not want to spend.

Last week, Zaslav said he recently visited the headquarters of TNT Sports in Atlanta to meet with the broadcast team in charge of pre- and post-game basketball coverage. He expressed a desire to keep the team in place, but said WBD needed to pursue sports deals that made financial sense.

“We’re in the business of sport and in sport, deals come up, and you look at those deals, and you make a decision about the overall quality of the full menu of content you have for each of your platforms,” Zaslav said.

In addition to pro basketball, TNT Sports also airs NHL and MLB games. Starting later this year, TNT Sports will sublicense some college football games from ESPN.

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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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