It seems like tech companies have been linked to live NBA rights for years, and while a national deal might get done as part of the league’s next round of media rights negotiations, local deals may get done too as Diamond Sports’ bankruptcy continues to drag on.
Bloomberg reports that Amazon, Apple, DirecTV, Disney, and Google are interested in local NBA rights, “but only if they can obtain a critical mass of teams.”
The Diamond Sports Group, owner of the Bally Sports RSNs, has been moving through the bankruptcy process since March. Three teams have left the Bally Sports RSNs since – the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres were dropped by Diamond and are having their games produced and distributed by MLB, while the Phoenix Suns voluntarily left for a new deal with Gray Television and Kiswe.
15 NBA teams, or a full half of the league, still have their local games broadcast on Bally Sports RSNs. Unlike MLB, Diamond has an all-encompassing streaming deal with the NBA, allowing it to offer live NBA games on its Bally Sports+ service.
Much of what will happen with the media rights for those 15 teams, as well as the other teams still in the Diamond portfolio, hinge on whether or not the company can get new carriage deals done with Comcast and DirecTV, which expire shortly.
The NBA wants to avoid turmoil and is seeking certainty from Diamond that it will continue paying teams and airing their games next season.
But Diamond has been slow to make commitments because its future is uncertain. The company is negotiating contract renewals with two of its largest TV distributors, Comcast Corp. and DirecTV.
Those deals expire in the coming months. If Diamond’s channels are dropped by those providers, the company would be hardpressed to keep paying teams for their TV rights and could force the leagues to find alternatives.
“We are in ongoing discussions with the NBA about paths forward and are engaged in renewal discussions regarding the two distribution agreements that are up this year,” Diamond Sports said in a statement. “Our goal is to continue producing and broadcasting games for all NBA teams in our portfolio.”
While the note about tech companies and other major entertainment brands being interested in NBA local rights, it’s mostly a moot point unless Diamond’s RSNs are dropped nationally by Comcast and/or DirecTV. Amazon, Apple, etc aren’t going to go in for live NBA rights and acquire only a couple of teams like say, the Hornets, Pacers, and Thunder. It would make so much more sense for a company investing in airing NBA teams locally to pick up a package of at least a dozen or so teams and have a wider, more comprehensive strategy for airing games locally.