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The Adam Project

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What makes this NBA negotiation even more fascinating, though, is the presence of the deep-pocketed tech companies. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
John Ourand
March 28, 2024

Perhaps the greatest mystery in the current sports media ecosystem—beyond the Shohei Ohtani saga, of course—is the denouement of the NBA’s national media rights auction. The timing, of course, is fraught on a number of levels—league play is at an all-time high, as a new generation of international superstars (S.G.A., Wemby, Jokic, Ant-Man) come into their own; the league’s traditional partners are all operating in a complex post-ZIRP media environment; and live sports remain the last bastion of the linear ecosystem. Disney (ABC and ESPN), Comcast (NBC), and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT and TruTV) all want as many TV games as they can acquire. Sure, they know that their futures will be defined by streaming and free cash flow, but current cash flow optimization models rely on raking in as much money as humanly possible from live sports—the cable fees, advertising, etcetera—pronto

What makes this NBA negotiation even more fascinating, though, is the presence of the deep-pocketed—in some cases trillion-dollar-plus market capitalization—tech companies. Indeed, while Disney, Comcast, and WBD all have pretty straightforward motivations for landing NBA rights, the tech streamers have very distinct enticements. Representatives from Amazon, Apple, Google, and Netflix have all approached their NBA talks in different ways, which neatly express their ultimate end goal and the manifold value of the NBA product. (They haven’t had formal negotiations yet; the NBA is in the middle of an exclusive negotiating window with Disney and WBD that runs through April 22.)