July 18, 2024

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As N.B.A. TV Deal Nears, Warner Bros. Discovery Is on the Outside

2 min read

Warner Bros. Discovery executives thought they had given the National Basketball Association a proposal it would accept.

In April, after months of negotiations, the company made an offer to pay billions of dollars to the league for the rights to continue showing its games on TNT, as well as its Max streaming service. TNT has shown N.B.A. games since the 1980s, and its “Inside the NBA” is widely considered one of the best-ever sports studio shows.

But with the end of Warner Bros. Discovery’s exclusive negotiating window looming, the N.B.A. insisted on changing the package of games the company would receive, according to two people familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private dealings. Warner Bros. Discovery balked, and while the two sides have continued negotiating, the company now it finds itself on the verge of losing the rights to televise the sport with which it has become inextricably linked. And on Friday night, the beating heart of “Inside the NBA,” the Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, said he would be retiring from TV after next season.

“The first thing anybody thinks about when you say TNT is the N.B.A.,” said John Skipper, the former president of ESPN.

Media companies, including Warner Bros. Discovery, were prepared for bruising negotiations with the N.B.A. Sports rights remain an extremely valuable commodity for traditional TV networks, and companies increasingly also see them as a way to attract more subscribers to their streaming services.

The league made clear it wanted a sizable increase on the roughly $2.66 billion in total it receives annually, on average, from Warner Bros. Discovery and ESPN under its current rights agreements, which went into effect in 2016. Executives at those companies knew if they wanted to retain N.B.A. rights they would have to pay more for fewer games so that the N.B.A. could create a third package of games to sell.

Disney, ESPN’s parent company, exited its exclusive…

Tania Ganguli, Kevin Draper and Nicole Sperling

2024-06-16 17:40:37

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