NBA, ESPN Apart In Media Rights Talks; League May Add Others

The NBA and ESPN are in the midst of talks to renew the cable network’s media rights package, but the league intends to add others, according to Andrew Marchand of The Athletic.NBA on ESPN logo

The network and league have been together since 2002 (following a brief run in which ESPN aired Sunday games from 1982-84).

Right now, per Marchand, the sides “remain apart on the financials.” ESPN pays more than $1.3 billion per year to broadcast NBA games and is believed to be willing to increase that amount.

“ABC/ESPN are heavy favorites to continue with the NBA, even if an agreement may not happen before April 22, when the NBA can officially talk with other entities outside of ESPN and fellow incumbent TNT Sports, owned by Warner Bros. Discovery,” Marchand wrote.

The NBA also intends to add at least one more broadcast partner outside of the current rights holders, and perhaps up to two. That includes a streaming service such as Amazon Prime or YouTube.

“Amazon Prime Video and NBC Sports are known top contenders,” Marchand wrote. “Google/YouTubeTV, Netflix and Apple have held talks about the packages, according to executives briefed on the matter.”

The NBA’s deal with ESPN and TNT expires after the 2024-25 season. It cannot engage with non-incumbent bidders until next month, unless ESPN and TNT were to waive their exclusive negotiation windows.

“I would say that all of the leading technology companies are interested in the NBA. Amazon is just one of them. I think Apple, I think Google. All of them,” former NBA and ESPN executive John Kosner said, via Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

A report last season suggested that TNT may be preparing to move away from the NBA, though that report has been shot down by some officials within the industry.

NBC broadcast NBA games first from 1955-62, then again from 1990-2002, before losing the right to televise games to ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports.

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