NBA Enters Final Talks With Disney and Amazon for Game Rights, but Warner Bros. Discovery Still Has a Chance

The current agreement allows WBD to match the deals, but whether the company can is another question

Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics shoots over Doug McDermott #20 of the Indiana Pacers (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The high-stakes battle over the NBA is starting to come to an end. Disney, Amazon and NBCUniversal are coming close to wrapping up their deal with the league, according to multiple media reports.

What that means for the NBA’s longtime parter Warner Bros Discovery, owner of the league’s longtime home at TNT, remains to be seen.

Based on the way the current deal is written, Warner Bros. Discovery will have the option to match any deal brought to the NBA before losing the rights to the live sports league. It remains unclear if that will happen.

Bloomberg reported that WBD head David Zaslav put aside $2 billion for NBA rights. That’s not a number that will likely have much flexibility considering the state of Warner Bros. Discovery’s finances. At the end of 2023, the company’s long term debt was reported to be about $42 billion.

So which package could WBD potentially match? It likely won’t be Disney’s, which by all reports is the biggest of the packages. Bloomberg has reported that will likely include the NBA Finals, and both Sports Business Journal and the Wall Street Journal have reported that this package will range from $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion. That’s at least a $1 billion increase from the $1.5 billion ESPN pays for the rights to the league under its current deal.

The deal it makes the most sense for WBD to match would be NBCUniversal’s, but that’s still outside of the company’s reported price range. In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that NBC was preparing a $2.5 billion a year bid for the rights, more than double than what Warner Bros. Discovery is paying for its current deal.

The NBA reportedly asked its current partner for $2.3 billion, but WBD tapped out at $2.1 billion. That would mean TNT would lose the rights to the league it’s covered for nearly four decades over $200 million.

There’s also the position of these two companies for the NBA to consider as it looks for a new partner for the next 11 years. Compared to Warner Bros. Discovery and its financial woes, NBCUniversal’s owner Comcast is in a more stable situation.

Finally, there’s Amazon’s NBA deal, which is reportedly the least expensive of the players and is between $1.8 billion and $2 billion. That’s more in Warner Bros. Discovery’s reported price range, but because Amazon’s agreement is for the streaming rights, it wouldn’t make much sense for the league to partner with WBD. Though Max is a strong streaming player, it doesn’t have the international reach of a company like Amazon, and the NBA has not been secretive about its desire to expand globally.

Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment on this story.

The possibility that TNT would lose the rights to the NBA has caused a great deal of disruption in the sports community. Charles Barkley, one of the longtime mainstays of the network’s Emmy-winning “Inside the NBA,” spoke frankly about the situation in an interview on Wednesday, noting that about 200 jobs could be lost if the company loses the rights to the league.

“It just sucks right now for the people I work with,” Barkley said on SiriusXM. “I’m worried about all the people I work with. I just turned 61. I’ve got enough money.”


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