NBA finalizes TV deals with ESPN, NBC, Amazon, but TNT could still compete: sources

The NBA and network executives have finalized deals that will see NBC and Amazon Prime Video become new partners, while ABC/ESPN will remain the home of the NBA Finals. The agreements extend for 11 seasons and are worth $76 billion, according to executives with direct knowledge of the deals.

While the NBA and its affiliate have agreed to all the language, incumbent TNT Sports continues to threaten to match it. The CEO of TNT Sports’ parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, has publicly stated that he may try to use language in the current contract to remain involved with the NBA. If Zaslav follows through, he is expected to target Amazon’s package.

The next step is for the league governors to approve the deals with ESPN, NBC and Amazon, which is expected to be a formality.

The Board of Governors meets Tuesday in Las Vegas. At some point after the league governors’ final move, the NBA will send the completed contracts to TNT Sports.

At that point, the company will have five days to make its move. If it refuses, the NBA is expected to make an official announcement before the Olympics, which begin July 26.

The NBA, TNT Sports, ESPN, NBC and Amazon declined to comment.

According to sources familiar with the agreements, the NBA’s new television deals with ESPN, NBC and Amazon Prime would see the regular seasons air nationwide nearly seven days a week.

The NBA will take a cue from the NFL, as after the regular football season ends, NBC will have the NBA follow up with television’s most-watched primetime show, “Sunday Night Football,” while Amazon will do the same on Thursdays after its TNF coverage ends.

Amazon Prime Video is expected to stream its other games primarily on Friday nights and Saturdays throughout the regular season.

NBC will have games on Tuesdays throughout the NBA season. Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, is expected to have exclusive coverage on Mondays. Peacock will also simulcast all NBC games.

ESPN will reduce the number of regular season games slightly, from about 100 now to 80. During the NFL season, games will be held on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with the Saturday night game being the special ABC window. Later in the year, after the NFL, ESPN will also have Friday night action.

All three platforms will have playoff games, while Amazon Prime Video will be home to the In-Season Tournament. Amazon and NBC will alternate airing the conference finals. ESPN will have conference finals and the NBA Finals each season.

While TNT Sports is currently sidelined, the deal ESPN struck with the NBA wasn’t exactly a given.

ESPN and NBA executives failed to reach an agreement before their exclusivity deal expired in April, when ESPN refused to give up a share of the Finals. Shortly thereafter, when ESPN paid $2.6 billion, slightly less than the $2.7 billion checks it writes to the NFL, the NBA agreed to keep the Finals exclusively on ABC/ESPN. NBC is expected to pay $2.5 billion per season, while Amazon will pay $1.8 billion per year.

Under the current deal, ESPN and TNT Sports will pay a combined $2.6 billion for nine seasons.

If TNT Sports shuts down, this upcoming season will be the final season of games after nearly four decades. Although Charles Barkley has said he plans to retire, all three networks are expected to pursue him and could simply try to bring the entire “Inside the NBA” crew to their platforms. TNT Sports could also continue to produce the show in some form, even without NBA games.

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For NBC, it has Mike Tirico and Noah Eagle as potential play-by-players. With Dwyane Wade working the Olympics for NBC, he could be positioned as a potential No. 1 game analyst. Amazon Prime Video has put the voice of the Final Four, CBS/TNT/YES’ Ian Eagle, at the top of its play-by-play wish list and is expected to hire two or three game callers.

(Photo: David Berding/Getty Images)

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