Over the last couple days, the future of NBA broadcasting has come to the front of the news cycle. One major network is rumored to desire a reunion with the league, while another set of regional networks may be declaring bankruptcy, putting broadcasts in potential jeopardy.
According to an article by Alex Sherman, writing for CNBC, NBC Sports is considering bidding for rights to NBA broadcasts after a two-decade hiatus. The league can’t begin formal negotiations with potential national partners until April of 2024. The Disney corporation is expected to bid on the rights as well, attempting to keep the NBA in its current home with ABC and ESPN. Apple and Amazon have also expressed interest, according to the article.
The mention of NBC will strike nostalgia in the hearts of many, who grew up watching the game on that network, preceded by John Tesh’s classic Roundball Rock theme. Sherman writes:
NBCUniversal executives have informed the NBA of their potential interest, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. NBC Sports wants a package that would include playoff games to air on NBC’s broadcast network, two of the people said. Some regular season games could be exclusive to NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock. The NBA could also decide to force media companies to simulcast all games on streaming to increase reach, the people said.
It will be interesting to see if a traditional network can stay in the game if super-companies like Amazon and Apple get involved. They can afford to bid for rights at a significant loss, as their broadcast ventures are designed to connect users to services and products beyond the broadcasts and their attendant commercials. Amazon, for instance, can bank on NBA fans to also use their Prime subscriptions to buy products, an income stream far more significant than just the subscription fee.
On the other side of the coin, Joe Reedy of the Sports Business Journal reported this week that Diamond Sports Group, the parent company of the Bally Sports regional sports networks, will miss a $140 million interest payment that will trigger a 30-day grace period before a bankruptcy filing. Bally carries multiple NHL and NBA team broadcasts on their networks, including the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks.
The report was confirmed by multiple news outlets today. It’s unlikely that the league or its teams would allow so many games to go without being broadcast. It’s likely that the NBA will assume a place as one of the lead creditors should bankruptcy become reality. They also have contingency plans, no doubt. But major swaths of the Association may be looking for new regional broadcast contracts down the road.