Despite Posturing, Warner Bros. Discovery Invested in Keeping NBA Rights
Despite all the posturing performed by CEO David Zaslav, it seems Warner Bros. Discovery would rather keep the valuable NBA rights than lose them. According to the Sports Business Journal, WBD Sports Chair and CEO Luis Silberwasser had positive things to say about the NBA and was optimistic about the future between WBD and the NBA.
“We love our relationship with the NBA,” he told to SBJ’s John Ourand. “We love the business that we have with them, and we look forward to a very bright future.”
This seems to contradict Zaslav's words from a few months ago, in which he tried to convince everyone that the company was ready for life without the NBA.
“We have another couple of years on the NBA, and Adam [Silver, NBA commissioner] is a friend of mine for 20 years,” Zaslav said. “But we’re going to be very disciplined. We don’t have to have the NBA, and if we do a deal on the NBA, it’s going to look a lot different.”
While nothing is certain in the company’s current cost-cutting phase, but those comments seem to be more about negotiating leverage than an actual willingness to let the Association go elsewhere. WBD Sports was all over the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, with talents like Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal being event staples. During All-Star Weekend, Silberwasser suggested that the NBA is integrated into Turner more than any other league partner.
“It’s part of our DNA,” he said. “It’s 40 years of history that we have with the NBA. You can see it here in Salt Lake City. You can see that the way we treat this event is not just one more game or one more weekend, but something that is very special.”
While all this is well and good, it’s clear that Turner is in for a dogfight with other broadcast entities for the NBA rights when they become available following the 2024-25 season. Amazon, Apple, FOX, NBC, and ESPN are all reportedly interested in a larger piece of the NBA pie should it become available. We’ve seen both Amazon and Apple flex their sports muscles, adding the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” and the [MLS League Pass], respectively. Longtime NBA fans would no doubt love to see the NBA return to NBC, reuniting the league with John Tesh’s iconic “Roundball Rock.”
For now, Silberwasser, and WBD as a whole, are optimistic about the future.
“I understand the noise out there,” Silberwasser said. “But I do hope that people see our commitment to the rights that we have and our commitment to making those rights better than they’ve ever been. If we were not interested in a long-term relationship with the NBA, we wouldn’t be doing the things that we’re doing. When we speak to our league partners, they know it.”
Last week, WBD executives said that a full slate of news and sports programming will not be a part of the company's combined streamer when it launches later this spring. However, those WBD properties could factor into the future of the yet-to-be-named platform, and should the company ink a new deal with the NBA additional streaming rights could very possibly be part of the plan.
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