Streaming Powerhouses vs Traditional Networks: Who Will Win the NBA Broadcast Rights?

Walt Disney Co DIS, home of ABC and ESPN, and Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc WBD, owner of TNT, are exclusively negotiating to renew their contracts, with the NBA being the last major U.S. sports deal up for grabs. 

Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery pay about $2.7 billion annually to broadcast NBA games to a national audience, Bloomberg reports. The current deals expire in 2025.

The price tag will likely breach the $5 billion-a-year mark. Sports consultant Ed Desser expects NBA rights to more than double and potentially quite a bit more.

While regular season NBA ratings were flat, viewership for the playoffs has been the highest in years, and live sports are almost single-handedly keeping the cable-TV business alive.

This time, the league will likely sell its rights to more than two companies, carving out games for a streaming service.

The league wants more games to be shown on free broadcast stations like ABC, NBC, Fox, or CBS to win a higher fanbase. The league will likely wish to simultaneously air those contests on streaming services to attract additional viewers. 

To many, Disney is the favorite to keep the rights. Warner Bros. Discovery also has a close relationship with the NBA. 

If the NBA carves out a package for another broadcaster, Amazon.Com Inc AMZN is a likely frontrunner. 

Comcast Corp CMCSA NBCUniversal also has a history with the NBA, broadcasting its games during the 1990s and early 2000s Michael Jordan era. 

Apple Inc AAPL has been expanding its ambitions in sports, having acquired rights to Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball.

Fox Corp FOX has expressed some interest in NBA rights. 

Netflix Inc NFLX may bid for a smaller package of games in some international markets. 

Price Action: DIS shares traded lower by 0.91% at $87.49 on the last check Tuesday.

Image credits: Ivan Marc on Shutterstock

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