While the NBA may begin its on-court play next week, discussions are taking place behind the scenes regarding the structure of its next media rights deal.
The league’s existing deal, which was negotiated over a decade ago, provides a collective $2.6 billion annually from ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery. With record levels of cord-cutting pervading the sports media ecosystem throughout the fiscal year, both companies are reportedly considering renewing their deals, but taking on smaller rights packages, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal.
Amid turbulence related to the Ch. 11 bankruptcy of Diamond Sports Group, which is responsible for carrying regional games for 15 NBA teams, along with layoffs from major media companies, the next rights contract could look fundamentally different. The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN/ESPN+) and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT/TBS/Max) carry about 165 nationally televised games, and both entities are in discussions with the league ahead of a 45-day exclusive negotiating window, set to commence on March 9, 2024.
Both Apple and Amazon have expressed interest in the NBA, but the report emphasizes that both companies want more than just a small amount of NBA games. Amazon in particular has expressed that the rights package would be more compelling if the league found a way to implement regional rights, something that is reportedly being considered by the league. The NBA could aim to triple earnings in its next media rights deal – which would bring it to nearly $78 billion in compensation over a decade – fueled by a generation of captivating young superstars and international expansion.
Last season, NBA games across the national properties averaged 1.6 million viewers, and the NBA Playoffs were responsible for an average of 5 million viewers. While the viewership does not equate to that of the NFL, media insiders recognize the value proposition the NBA presents and the importance of televising live sports, especially amid Hollywood strikes.
With Diamond Sports Group trying to avoid Ch. 7 liquidation, the NBA recognizes that it may have to take back the regional rights and broadcast and distribute games itself, similar to what MLB did through a newly established local media department. According to a person familiar with the matter, the NBA has offered the Sinclair subsidiary and its creditors several options to continue broadcasts, including one-year extensions with discounted fees.
Diamond has accumulated over $8 billion in debt, and recent court records outline a decline of nearly 90% of cash on hand, which equates to under $22 million. MLB recently requested the bankruptcy court handling the case to deny a request for an extension of the 120-day exclusivity period granted to Diamond under the Ch. 11 protections. Nonetheless, the NBA is positioning itself to have control over these local market rights so it will be able to offer them with national rights packages, although several larger market teams are broadcast through separate regional sports networks.
As Disney looks for a strategic business partner to purchase an equity stake in ESPN, reportedly up to 10%, the league has considered offering its subscription-based League Pass package to the “Worldwide Leader.” In exchange, the league would want a stake in ESPN; however, a conversation along these lines is not expected to occur until the larger media rights deal is completed.
John Dickinson Exits 95.7 The Game
“The longtime Bay Area sports radio reporter and host announced his departure on social media.”
A voice familiar to Bay Area sports fans will no longer be heard on 95.7 The Game. Reporter John Dickinson announced on Monday that it was his last day at the station.
Dickinson posted a note on X on Monday expressing his gratitude for getting to be at 95.7 The Game for well over a decade covering sports.
“Who would have thought I’d have been fortunate enough to cover two World Series or three Super Bowls or SIX NBA Finals?” Dickinson wrote. “They even let me pretend to be a hockey reporter during the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Through the countless hours of radio shows and update shifts, and the long days and nights of traveling to cover Warriors and 49ers games all across the country, it’s been a pleasure to interact with some of the most passionate and knowledgeable (and sometime neurotic) fans in sports.”
He continued that he’s thankful for the chance to develop such great relationships with other reporters on the various Bay Area pro sports beats. Dickinson announced that he’s excited for what’s next.
According to sources, that next opportunity will be with KNBR.
“Grateful for the friendships that have blossomed with co-workers and other reporters along all the great beats in the Bay Area,” he wrote. “From my early days almost exclusively on the Raiders/Warriors/Giants to now primarily the 49ers/Warriors. Beyond excited for what’s next, but that’s tomorrow’s news.”
Rob Stone: Big Noon Kickoff ‘A Toddler But Not in Our Crib Anymore’
The college football pregame show is about to finish its 5th season competing with ESPN’s College GameDay.
FOX is about to put a bow on its fifth season of Big Noon Kickoff, and even though ESPN’s College GameDay continues to lead in viewership, FOX isn’t taking its foot off the pedal.
Big Noon Kickoff averaged 1.02 million viewers through the first 10 weeks of the 2023 season according to reporting from Sports Business Journal. That figure was up from the 997,000 viewer average last year, the first year FOX sent its college football pregame show on the road for the entire regular season.
The show has seen its biggest growth in the final hour leading into FOX’s Big Noon Saturday game of the week broadcast. The 11 a.m. hour is averaging over 1.4 million viewers during that window through nine weeks.
FOX has seemed to master creating its own party atmosphere for the on-campus, on-location live show hosted by Rob Stone. Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, Mark Ingram, and Urban Meyer fill out the desk, with Bruce Feldman and Chris “The Bear” Fallica contributing throughout the course of the morning.
Stone said the show continues to improve and gain momentum. It’s clear the program is on an upward trajectory.
“We’re a toddler, but we’re not in our crib anymore,” Stone said. “We’re demanding a king-sized bed.”
“It’s just a testament to everyone at Fox believing in what we can make this,” Leinart added. “And then also the guys up here and everybody part of this crew — in front of the camera and behind the camera — everybody makes the show go.”
The show obviously wants to eventually overtake GameDay as the most popular college football pregame show in the country, but many elements pull from the formula ESPN has used to make GameDay what it is. Imitation is the most honest form of flattery in Quinn’s eyes, who said that the big difference between what viewers get on FOX is the focus funneling into the noon game of the week.
“Obviously, if you’re gonna start out with the idea to do a college football pregame show, you take a lot of things [GameDay has] done because they’ve been successful,” Quinn said. “What we’re trying to do is taking the tailgate — that party and that atmosphere inside the stadium right before the game — right to kick.”
“The vast majority of our games are that,” the Big Noon Kickoff host added. “So hopefully when you’re watching you get more of the intensity wrapping up to like, here it is, here are the two teams. Boom. Gus and Joel, take it away.”
NBC Sports Trialing Paul McGinley as Lead Golf Analyst This Weekend
McGinley will get the opportunity to helm the role held by Paul Azinger before his exit earlier this month.
When the Hero World Challenge tees off later this week in The Bahamas, NBC Sports will reportedly be auditioning its next PGA Tour lead analyst in Paul McGinley.
The Irish Independent on Monday reported that McGinley, a Ryder Cup champion for Europe who contributes analysis to both Sky Sports and Golf Channel, will get to test out doing play-by-play analysis alongside Dan Hicks.
NBC is going to be hiring a new lead analyst after the departure of Paul Azinger following October’s Ryder Cup. The network’s PGA Tour broadcast schedule for 2024 doesn’t begin in earnest until February.
It’s believed that if McGinley gets the lead analyst nod, he will continue to honor his obligations to Sky and Golf Channel under the Comcast banner.