Could TNT and the NBA really be done? What to make of Amazon’s new TV deal

As Athleticism reported Friday, the NBA and Amazon Prime Video are part of a deal that will make the streamer a major player in how the league’s games will be watched in the future.

At the same time, ABC/ESPN and the NBA also moved toward a new deal that would keep the NBA Finals on that network.

That leaves a battle royal for the final package between incumbent TNT Sports and NBC. The NBA prefers to have only three partners, but there is an outside chance it will choose four.

AthleticismAndrew Marchand and Richard Deitsch give their first impressions of the news.

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Merchant : My first takeaway is that Prime Video has become the biggest tech company in sports rights. Once this deal is completed, Prime Video will stream NFL, NBA and MLB games (locally in New York with the Yankees) and will have major rights worldwide. If it wasn’t the case before, it’s definitely now something to be talked about with ESPN, Fox, NBC, CBS and TNT Sports as major players in live rights.

Richard, what is your first thought?

Deitsch: What really stood out to me about your report was “significant playoff inventory.” This potentially represents a monumental change for NBA fans. How will NBA fans react? I also think about what this could mean for the WNBA; I think this could be very important for this package in the next two years. What could the NBA hypothetically look like on Amazon in terms of production, inventory and talent?

Merchant : Amazon showed its strategy with the NFL. This added credibility to the play-by-play with the legendary Al Michaels. I think he’ll try this approach again, so I can see Ian Eagle at the top of his list. He and Mike Breen are the two best play-by-play announcers in basketball, and Breen is locked in with ESPN for five more years after this one. Eagle is already the voice of the Final Four and does TNT, so he would seem to be a similar prestige pick to Michaels.

As far as analysts go, Eagle and Grant Hill have been good together, but I could also see them being interested in someone like JJ Redick, another Duke alum. Richard Jefferson is also there. One name, if you want to think really big — and aggregators, hold off on your rewrites for now — is LeBron James, should he retire by 2025-26. Amazon, notably, has already established a relationship with James by occasionally airing his “The Shop” as an alternate broadcast to “Thursday Night Football.” Amazon also tapped Fred Gaudelli to start Thursday night, so I think they’ll add a top producer and likely look to work with one of the other networks for production, again similar to football.

Let’s move on to the latest battle: TNT Sports vs. NBC. How do you see this moving? How important would you be to “Inside the NBA” if you were the league?


NBC has been absent from the NBA since 2002, when Chris Webber and Doug Christie’s Sacramento Kings lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Deitsch: I’ve written extensively about “Inside the NBA” over the years, including an article on why he should be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in the contributor category. It seems incomprehensible why the NBA wouldn’t want this spectacle somewhere. TNT Sports also has premium play-by-play callers like Eagle, Kevin Harlan and Brian Anderson. But I don’t think having “Inside the NBA” is a major factor here. Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), TNT’s parent company, likely needs the NBA for its streaming business between Max and the Disney-Fox-Warner project to aggregate live sports content. NBC would be a great partner and I love the company’s history with the league. But if the NBA is serious about three partners against four, TNT Sports maintains a more restricted package.

By the way, I love your LeBron suggestion. Given his basketball IQ and fame, he would be an incredible analyst.

Merchant : NBC enters the equation with a top-notch play-by-play combo in Mike Tirico and Noah Eagle. So that’s a plus for the production value. However, it’s going to come down to number 1, the almighty dollar. Money wins. But if relationships are on the line, TNT Sports will have a choice. In November 2022, WBD CEO David Zaslav said, “We don’t need to have the NBA. » Maybe so, but the NBA didn’t like hearing that, and TNT Sports’ affiliate fees on cable, satellite and even in the skinny package with Disney and Fox are largely based on presence of the NBA. So he may have to pay a lot if he wants to keep the league on his network and streaming services. Meanwhile, Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Universal, hobnobs with top NBA executives. If the NBA stays at three packages, it will be fascinating to see how the latter plays out.

Deitsch: The takeaway here, even in a tough economic environment for these media giants, is that Tier 1 sports remain vital when it comes to how these companies approach sports content consumption. The bubble has not yet burst. This is also a major statement from Amazon. It is in sport that we must stay.

(Photo of “Inside the NBA” crew and San Antonio Spurs star Victor Wembanyama at February’s NBA All-Star Game: Brandon Todd/NBAE via Getty Images)

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