NBA reportedly 'formalizing' deals with Disney/ESPN, Amazon, NBC, but Warner Bros. still has a chance

NBC may have swiped the NBA right out from under Warner Bros. Discovery's nose because CEO David Zaslav wouldn't pony up more cash

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - MAY 12: A view of the NBA on TNT logo on a broadcast camera prior to the start of the third quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Second Round Playoffs between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on May 12, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Nuggets defeated the Timberwolves 115-107. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
It may be the end of the NBA on TNT as the league is reportedly finalizing media rights contracts with ESPN, Amazon and NBC. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The NBA may soon have new media rights deals with three of the biggest media companies in the world. But that might not be the end of this ongoing saga.

Sports Business Journal reported Wednesday that the NBA is "formalizing" media rights contracts with Disney/ESPN, NBC and Amazon, with each platform getting its own package. ESPN is reportedly paying a whopping $2.8 billion per year for the "A" package, which includes the NBA Finals, weekly primetime games and the WNBA. NBC is reportedly paying $2.6 billion per year for the "B" package, which could include a studio show, a few primetime games per week and two playoff series. Amazon's approximately $2 billion package is reportedly centered on the in-season tournament, the play-in tournament and the WNBA.

That seems neat and tidy, but things are far from settled. Once the contracts are finalized and each network finalizes their bids, the NBA will reportedly take the contract for NBC's "B" package to Warner Bros. Discovery (the current media rights holder) to allow them to match NBC's offer in "total value."

The phrase "total value" is the key here. NBC is a legacy broadcast network with nationwide over-the-air broadcasts. Warner Bros. Discovery is a multinational company with assets in every area of media, but one thing they do not have is nationwide over-the-air broadcast capability. According to Sports Business Journal, that could make it impossible for WBD to match NBC's offer in "total value."

Another thing WBD doesn't have is money. They're reportedly $40 billion in debt and might not be able to beat NBC by simply overpaying. In that case, WBD could take the NBA to court over the definition of "total value."

If WBD's potential lawsuit fails, the 2024-2025 season would be the NBA's last on TNT, putting an end to the beloved studio show "Inside the NBA."

If you're looking for someone to blame for the possible end of "Inside the NBA," David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, could be a starting point. He's already caught flak for canceling beloved shows, changing the name of HBO's streaming platform to "MAX," removing movies and TV shows from MAX to save the company money and shelving movies that have already been completed, among other reasons.

According to Sports Business Journal, ESPN is paying $2.8 billion, double the $1.4 billion they paid a decade ago, to retain the rights to the "A" package and to prevent it from going on the open market. But Zaslav reportedly "refused" to double the $1.2 billion Warner Bros. paid a decade ago to retain the "B" package. When their exclusive negotiating window with the NBA ended without a deal, anyone was welcome to jump in, and NBC did just that.

To rescue the deal, Zaslav may have to go to court, and the future of "Inside the NBA" rests on the fate of a lawsuit.