Tuesday, 23 April 2024

The NBA Finals could soon be behind a streaming paywall

by BD Banks

It’s only been a few months since the NFL took a ton of flack for airing a playoff game exclusively on streaming.

Fans were angry — and Charles Barkley even referred to the league as “greedy pigs.”

The NFL did get a huge pay day, reportedly securing about $100 million from Comcast  (CMCSA) , the parent company of NBCUniversal and Peacock, to air the NFL Wild Card game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.

The results made it hard to justify the networks straying away from exclusively streamed events. Nearly 23 million fans watched the game, which made it the most-watched single live-streamed event in U.S. history.

Related: Experts weigh in on the NBA’s next media deal and whether ESPN can fend off Amazon and Apple

Amazon  (AMZN) , which has been airing “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video for the last two seasons, is expected to carry the exclusive NFL playoff game for next season.

It’s been heavily reported that streaming could spill into the NBA especially as the NBA’s media rights deal with Disney’s  (DIS)  ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery’s  (WBD)  Turner ends after the 2024-25 season.

The exclusive negotiating window of NBA with the two sides ends today. A report by The Athletic said that the two sides could “very well retain” the rights to the NBA, though another report by CNBC said that it’s unlikely that deal will be made before the 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time deadline.

The Athletic reported that a third or even potentially a fourth player could join in on the deal, with names like Amazon and NBC as major players. Google  (GOOG) , through YouTube, Netflix  (NFLX) , and Apple  (AAPL)  could also be in the mix.

Related: Peacock was a big winner with its streaming NFL Playoff game, defying social media backlash

Experts are certain that streaming will be a major player in the NBA’s next media rights deal, so it makes sense why the league is looking outside of ESPN and TNT. ESPN is set to launch its streamer in the coming years, while Warner Bros. has Max, but neither have established themselves in live sports streaming the way Amazon has with Prime Video or NBC has with Peacock.

Another major development in the NBA’s media rights deal from The Athletic report is that a streamer like Amazon could even eventually carry the league’s top games, including the NBA Finals.

The report said a streamer could gain the rights to NBA Finals or conference finals games “at some point” during the period of a long-term deal.

The NBA’s last media rights deal was for nine years, so assuming the same length, an exclusively streamed NBA Finals game could still be in the 2030s. But what seems more clear is that the NBA is seriously exploring streaming to be a major part of its next deal.

Related: Streaming and the future of sports – Why companies are betting big on broadcast rights