NBC, Apple, Amazon Looking to Land NBA Rights if Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery Do Not Renew
In the sport of basketball, there’s occasionally an extremely valuable player who becomes a free agent. During these times, the player, perhaps a LeBron James-type talent, will often be recruited by a long list of suitors, all wishing for the player to bring his talents to their lineup. Much in the same way, the NBA itself may be about to enter free agency.
After over two decades of the NBA’s broadcasting rights being held by Disney and Turner Sports, the league may be up for grabs once more. And just like in the story of King James, who returned to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers after a stint with the Miami Heat (before leaving again for Los Angeles), the NBA may return home as well, as one of the NBA’s former broadcasters seems to be throwing its hat in the ring in the pursuit of a return to the hardwood.
According to a recent report from CNBC, NBCUniversal executives have made it clear that they intend to pursue the NBA rights when they become available following the 2024-25 season. They seek a package that would include playoff games airing exclusively on their flagship network NBC, as well as potentially landing some regular season games on Peacock, the company’s streaming service. With the popularity of the NBA, these additions would not only bring value to the company’s linear broadcast network but to its rapidly growing streaming business as well.
Live sports have long been considered the cornerstone of the declining broadcast and cable television business. NBC is already home to NFL’s “Sunday Night Football,” the Olympics, Notre Dame college football, and more, but by bringing the NBA back to the network — and hopefully John Tesh’s iconic “Roundball Rock” theme song — the network will be filling even more broadcast time with the type of appointment television that only live sports can provide.
The same is true for Peacock, after its success streaming Spanish-language coverage of the World Cup, English Premier League soccer, WWE events, and more, NBCU is putting live sports front and center as it continues to invest in streaming. By adding streaming exclusive NBA action, the company can make Peacock an even more important part of every sports fan’s streaming bundle.
Related: How Could NBA Bring National Games to Streaming Services as Part of New Rights Deals?
Of course, all of this speculation is meaningless if Warner Bros. Discovery, the owner of Turner Sports, and Disney are unable to come to deals with the NBA during their exclusive negotiation windows, which is set to expire in April 2024. While Disney has been in a phase of cost-cutting, comments by its new CEO Bob Iger suggest that the NBA leaving ABC and ESPN may not be a certainty.
While Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has stated recently that the company “doesn't have to have the NBA,” Iger’s recent comments suggest that Disney may feel slightly differently. In last week’s quarterly earnings call, the recently returned CEO made it clear that the company would like to keep the league’s rights, but that nothing was set in stone.
“[The NBA] is a product that we’ve enjoyed having and hope to continue to enjoy having because not only its volume, but its quality,” he said. “I’ve had long conversations about this with [ESPN chairman] Jimmy Pitaro, and we’ve got some decisions that we have to make coming up … We’re simply going to have to get more selective.”
Even if there are NBA rights to be claimed, NBCUniversal is nowhere near the only company interested in landing the league’s rights. Prime Video has expressed interest, as it already has the rights to stream NBA games in Brazil. Clearly, the company has an interest in basketball and would like to add another major American sports league to its streaming offerings. Last fall, Prime Video became the exclusive home to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football,” and Amazon has recently discussed its plans to launch a standalone sports streaming service. Being able to include NBA games on such a streamer would be a huge draw for the company.
Apple is already reportedly interested in landing NBA rights. After being unable to work through differences with the NFL to land NFL Sunday Ticket, the company is apparently still looking for another major sports property to add to its recently launched MLS Season Pass. While the NBA cannot discuss deals with any media entities other than Disney and WBD until April 2024 — unless Disney and WBD wave their exclusivity — there is no doubt that there will be plenty of suitors when (and if) negotiations begin in earnest.
Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that includes original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series. Peacock is home to “Yellowstone,” and “The Office,” as well as original hits like “Poker Face” and “Bel-Air.” You can also watch live sports including Sunday Night Football, Premier League, and exclusive MLB games. Peacock is also the exclusive home to many WWE events like WrestleMania. Premium Plus subscribers can stream their local NBC feed in all 210 markets.
Peacock includes news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.
Peacock also includes the entire library of Bravo shows and has exclusives like “Below Deck: Down Under.” They also include live and on-demand access to Hallmark channels.
The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like “Parks and Recreation,” and the entire Dick Wolf library including “Law & Order” and “Chicago Fire.”
The service also features blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.