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The TNT Sports boss said they didn’t need the NBA – we’re about to find out



The TNT Sports boss said they didn't need the NBA – we're about to find out

One of the core aspects of basketball is trash talk. It seems to have been part of the game since Dr. Naismith posted his first peach basket at Springfield College in 1891: if you talk, you have to deliver.

That’s why the Warner Bros. diss track. 2022 Discovery CEO David Zaslav backs the sudden jump ball between Zaslav’s TNT Sports and NBC for the latest NBA TV rights deal still up for grabs. Two years ago, Zaslav joined NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s league.

“We don’t need the NBA,” said Zaslav, who is reportedly paid like an NBA star by almost $50 million per yearduring an RBC investor conference.

Zaslav’s words rang in the ears of Silver and NBA executives. It has left Zaslav and TNT Sports fighting for their NBA lives with a Faustian pick.

Zaslav can either exercise budgetary restraint and lose the NBA to NBC, thus skewering TNT Sports, or he can pay the reported asking price of $2.5 billion per season for a lower package than he currently owns, proving he can win the NBA need.

Any deal for TNT or NBC is expected to include a conference finals every two years, as opposed to TNT’s current every-season format. Both networks are expected to maintain the annual All-Star Game broadcast.

At this point, it seems clear that ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro, and Amazon Prime Video’s top sports director Jay Marine, and their bosses – who are already at the medal stand waiting for the third winner – have done better than Zaslav and his colleagues. dear lieutenants.

This is reported by the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by The AthleticsESPN will pay $2.6 billion for the NBA finals and conference finals each season, while Amazon Prime Video will receive a conference finals every other year and is expected to be around $1.8 billion per year.

Meanwhile, NBC sits there and aggressively pursues Zaslav’s deal. It’s a multifaceted business move from Comcast-owned NBC that would reunite the league with its Michael Jordan-era partner and theme song “Roundball Rock” and comes with an already established one-two punch of play-by-play punch by Mike Tirico and Noah Eagle.

David Zaslav in November. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New York Times)

Although cable capacity is declining, Comcast is still in business. If Zaslav and TNT Sports stop airing NBA games, Comcast could potentially try to lower the price of its roughly $3-per-month subscription. It could mean millions in savings for Comcast.

Meanwhile, NBC is offering to put games on its broadcast network, where they could fit in well after “Sunday Night Football” ends in early January. NBC also wants the NBA to support its subscription streamer Peacock. And even if the NBA isn’t the incumbent, the NBA might prefer NBC as a teammate for this package.

Although TNT Sports has been broadcasting the NBA for nearly four decades, employs numerous employees with longstanding NBA ties and features Charles Barkley and the iconic studio show “Inside the NBA,” NBCUniversal Chairman Mark Lazarus is the media executive with the long-term relationship with the League.

From 1999 to 2003, Lazarus headed TNT Sports. During that time, the network hired Barkley, arguably the greatest sports studio analyst of all time.

Lazarus also developed strong relationships with Silver and NBA chief rights negotiator Bill Koenig.

At Turner, Lazarus rose to become head of Turner Entertainment, where he oversaw all of their programming from TNT to TBS. However, he was fired in 2008.

He then revived his career at NBC, where he now heads NBCUniversal Media Group.

“Both NBC and I personally have a long history with the NBA since my Turner years,” Lazarus said at the IMG Summit last September. “It’s a beautiful product in the United States and worldwide. It’s a very valuable product, it’s culturally relevant in a way that some other sports might not have; it appeals to several generations.

“So we’re intrigued by that, but we’re not an incumbent, and the process will come and go as it goes.”

The trial is ongoing and it is difficult to see how Zaslav wins. Paying a lot to keep a smaller package will dishonor his words about not needing the NBA, even though he has since tried to walk them back somewhat, professing his love for the league. If he loses the NBA, what happens to TNT Sports, even if it still has MLB, the NCAA Tournament, NHL and NASCAR?

TNT’s NBA history is great, and many of the people who built it remain with the network and wait by their phones to find out what the future holds. They are grinding on the ground floor, while Zaslav is at the games.

During the New York Knicks’ first-round playoff games, TNT featured Zaslav courtside as it made its celebrity roll call. Those things don’t happen by accident; especially, and most notably, on late April evening the window for the network’s exclusive negotiating rights closed.

TNT’s reporting is iconic because of all the memorable moments featuring Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and Barkley. But the words that could define this, if this is the end of an era, could belong to Zaslav, who may also ultimately prove those words hollow as he tries to stop NBC from completing the theft.

Zaslav was talking nonsense, but Silver has the ball and the commissioner gets to decide who to give the final shot.

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(Top photo of the “Inside the NBA” team in Denver for the 2023-2024 season tipoff game: Jamie Schwaberow / NBAE via Getty Images)