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Bidding war to start for the NBA's next TV deal

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Updated Apr 22, 2024
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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The NBA's media rights hit the market Tuesday. Let the bidding begin.

Why it matters: The move marks the first significant change in TV partners for the $10 billion league in more than two decades.

State of play: The NBA's exclusive negotiating window with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery is expected to expire tonight without a new deal, a source with knowledge of the talks tells Axios.

  • The talks with Disney and WBD were complicated by the NBA's desire to add additional media partners, the source adds.
  • "We continue to have productive discussions with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery on a renewal of our media deals," an NBA spokesperson said in a statement. ESPN and WBD declined to comment on the state of their negotiations.
  • The league will continue renewal discussions with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, according to the source.
  • Amazon is viewed as a heavy favorite to land NBA rights, according to multiple media reports.
  • Comcast, Apple, Google and even Netflix have all expressed some level of interest in NBA rights, a separate source with knowledge of those discussions had previously told Axios.
  • The league is using its All-Star Game, playoffs and new In-Season Tournament as anchors for any rights deal and could split the three events across different media partners, per The Athletic's Andrew Marchand.

The big picture: The sports TV market has tightened while the importance of live events has only grown for both linear TV and streaming companies.

  • Leagues are adding more media partners to get the overall price increases they're seeking.
  • The NBA's renewals are also coming at the same time as the WNBA looks to ride the "Caitlin Clark effect" and the overall rise of women's sports to score its own hefty price increase.

Flashback: The last time the NBA's TV rights were up for renewal, they never made it to the open market.

  • In October 2014, Disney and Turner committed to pay $24 billion over nine years to prevent then-newcomer Fox Sports 1 from grabbing a piece of the NBA.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details and the NBA statement.

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