Do Executive Shuffles at ESPN Indicate Pursuit of Wider NBA Rights is Coming?
Disneyland is still known as the most magical place on Earth, but things are likely a lot less magical at Disney’s corporate offices these days. The company is in the midst of a significant restructuring, cutting costs and trying to enhance revenues to mitigate losses from its streaming segment.
As part of that restructuring, there have been changes at the executive level for ESPN, which is owned by Disney. Rosalyn Durant will now serve as executive vice president of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, meaning she will be the network’s lead when it negotiates new rights deals with sports organizations.
What’s especially intriguing about that news is Durant’s close ties with the NBA. She was one of the main organizers of the “bubble” that allowed the NBA to resume play during the height of COVID lockdowns in 2020. Durant also maintains close relationships with NBA executives.
This could be a signal that ESPN is ready to jump into the bidding for the NBA’s rights with both feet. ESPN already has the rights to show some NBA games, but not all of those games appear on the channel’s streaming service ESPN+. The broadcast rights agreement signed between the league, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery ends after the 2024-25 season, and the NBA’s next deal will likely include a heavier streaming presence for basketball.
It’s possible Durant was elevated to her current position because Disney wants to secure the rights to all NBA games for ESPN. That would be quite costly, as the NBA will no doubt want a pay increase over the $2.7 billion Disney and WBD combined to pay in 2015. It also seems unlikely given the company’s current cost-saving philosophy. But it would undoubtedly bring more eyes, and more revenue to ESPN and ESPN+, and would be a major feather in Disney’s cap.
The House of Mouse will have plenty of competition for those rights if they reach the open market, however. A recent report suggests that Apple, NBCUniversal and Amazon would be heavily interested in bidding on NBA rights, and each company would be able to help increase the number of NBA games streamed. WBD executives have also recently signaled their affinity for the league, despite CEO David Zaslav saying in November that his company doesn't “have to have the NBA”.
The question of the NBA’s next broadcast partner will likely be settled in the coming months. Whichever outlet it picks could have huge implications for the future of the NBA— and sports in general— on streaming, and ESPN’s corporate reshufflings could indicate it intends to make a serious bid to stay in business with the league.
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The service can be subscribed for $9.99 / month per month or annually for $99.99 / year.
You will get a daily out-of-market game from MLB, and every out-of-market NHL with NHL Power Play (previously NHL.TV). For NFL Fans, they have an exclusive NFL game, and simulcast select Monday Football games.
The service has some of the most attractive soccer coverage including Bundesliga, LaLiga, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredevise and more.
College sports fans will be able to watch thousands of games and events including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf, and more.
For boxing and UFC fans, the service offers Top Rank boxing and will be the home of 15 exclusive UFC events.
ESPN+ now includes exclusive insights from analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (which used to be part of ESPN Insider), as well as premium Fantasy Tools & PickCenter.
What it does not include is most live sports that air on ESPN and ESPN2.
To get access to those channels you have to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. We suggest reading our guide on How to Watch ESPN without Cable.