NBC Sports seeks to re-establish NBA coverage

NBCUniversal is preparing to make a strong bid to win back the National Basketball Association broadcast rights more than 20 years after the company lost them to Disney and Turner Sports, according to people familiar with the matter.

NBC Universal executives have expressed interest in the NBA, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. NBC Sports wants a package that would include the playoffs on NBC’s broadcast network, two of the people said. Certain regular season games may be exclusive to NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service. The NBA could also decide to force media companies to simulcast all games, the people said.

Apple and Amazon have also expressed interest in purchasing overflow packages for the NBA, people familiar with the matter said. Amazon currently has an agreement with the NBA to broadcast games in Brazil.

Formal discussions cannot be held with non-affiliated bidders, unless Warner Bros., which owns Turner Sports. 

Discovery and Disney have agreed to waive their exclusive negotiating window, which ends in April 2024, according to people familiar with the matter.

An NBA representative confirmed that there are currently no negotiations with NBCUniversal for national rights. The league has had “a long-standing relationship with Comcast/NBA as the former owner of the NBA’s national television rights and through our multi-team partnership with NBC Sports.” regional sports networks.”

Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery have NBA rights through the end of the 2024-25 season — more than two years from now. It’s possible the NBA will simply go back with both existing parties and never begin outside negotiations. That’s what happened in 2014, the league in its last review.

But that’s unlikely to happen this time because streaming has become the dominant distribution method for TV viewing, the people said. The NBA will likely design one or two new packages for bidders and increase the number of media rights partners they have from two to three or four, they said.

Disney is bidding for ESPN, ESPN and ABC rights, the people said. Warner Bros. Discovery’s interest in the NBA is more obscure. CEO David Zaslav said in November, “We don’t need to have the NBA.” Turner’s relationship with the league includes the long-running studio show “Inside the NBA,” hosted by Ernie Johnson and former NBA stars Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. Zaslav and Warner Bros. Discovery sports director Luis Silberwasser will likely use this year to decide what kind of future relationship they want with the NBA, according to a person familiar with their thinking.

Representatives of NBCUniversal, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Amazon declined to comment. An Apple spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

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NBC NBA court

NBCUniversal may be in direct competition with Warner Bros. with Discovery, the other traditional television partner of the league, along with ESPN. NBCUniversal may offer a broadcast network (NBC) to broadcast NBA games as pay-TV providers begin dumping cable networks such as TNT and TBS, which mostly air scripted programming when sports are not on. Comcast also owns Sky, which could give the NBA another international broadcast channel.

“Today, developers sell us content at increasingly higher prices and ask us to distribute it mostly to all of our customers, selling the exact same content either to streaming platforms or creating a direct-to-consumer product ourselves at much lower costs, ” said Chris Winfrey, chairman of Charter, another US cable provider’s CEO, in comments published by CNBC last week. “We want to continue to fund developers when content available elsewhere for free is declining. This means that in a linear video structure, more and more distributors decide that certain content no longer makes sense to broadcast.”

Warner Bros. Discovery may respond with a larger global streaming service — combined with HBO Max/Discovery (likely to be called Max) — due to launch later this year. Warner Bros. Discovery had about 95 million streaming subscribers at the end of September, far more than Peacock’s 20 million in the US alone. The NBA has been a partner of Turner Sports for almost 40 years.

Many NBA fans fondly remember “The NBA on NBC” with its dramatic “Roundball Rock” theme song and era-defining broadcasts of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls winning six titles in the 1990s. NBC aired its last NBA games in the 2002 Finals, when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Jersey Nets. The games have been split between Disney’s ESPN and ABC and Turner Sports’ TNT and TBS for the past two decades. ABC is showing the NBA Finals.

NBA Value

NBA offers live programming that is valuable to advertisers and regularly attracts millions of viewers. NBA regular season games on ABC, ESPN and TNT are averaging 1.6 million viewers this season. That’s the same as a year ago, although the total number of households subscribing to cable television in the United States fell from 70 million to 62 million, according to the NBA.

NBA rights are up for renewal as global media companies cut costs, which could pressure the league to lower its expectations about the size of the price increase. Warner Bros. Discovery laid off thousands of employees and cut billions in content costs last year. 

Disney announced last week that it plans to cut 7,000 jobs and cut $5.5 billion in costs, including $3 billion in savings on non-sports content. The NFL received between 40 and 80 percent of its media rights when it extended its contract for 11 years through 2021.

It’s too early to say how much the NBA will be able to increase revenue from its new TV deal, but initial proposals for a 200 percent increase from about $25 billion to more than $70 billion over nine years are overly optimistic, people familiar with the matter said. said said with the thing. Annual growth closer to 100% may be more likely because of the secular decline of linear pay TV and streaming companies, which continue to lose billions of dollars annually, two of the people said.

Source: CNBC

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