Charles Barkley is confident he’ll be working as an NBA studio analyst for at least the next two years, but beyond that, there are too many variables.
Barkley joined the latest episode of Jimmy Traina’s Sports Illustrated Media Podcast and during the interview, he was asked about the 10-year contract he signed with Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, which owns TNT, last October. Despite agreeing to the deal, Barkley maintains there’s no way he will fulfill the entire contract, claiming he will retire before the 10 years are up.
Barkley promised WBD that he will continue his role on TNT for at least two more seasons, which matches the timing of their existing NBA rights agreement. While Barkley won’t guarantee anything past that, TNT and WBD Sports similarly can’t guarantee having an NBA rights package beyond the 2024-25 season.
“The next two years are going to be very interesting with the Apple situation, with the Amazon situation,” Barkley told Traina. “Because I know Turner is nervous, I know ESPN is nervous that Apple and Amazon are gonna come in and take some or all of the NBA packages. That actually, to be honest with you, that’s really the next time I’m gonna have to make a major decision. I’ll have nothing to worry about for the next two years, but the whole sports landscape in the NBA is gonna change in the next two years when Apple and Amazon start bidding on the NBA properties.”
WBD has expressed varying levels of interest in retaining an NBA media rights package over the last year. Last November, CEO David Zaslav infamously stated, “We don’t have to have the NBA.” Less than six months later, Zaslav said WBD hopes to have the NBA “for long-term.”
Considering the league’s long-standing partnership with TNT, as well as WBD’s involvement in NBATV, it’s hard to imagine a breakup in two years. But Amazon and Apple are reportedly serious about furthering their sports catalog by acquiring an NBA media package, and they certainly have the capital to outbid any linear network. They also have the capital to offer a lot of money to notable NBA commentators, like Barkley.
“I wouldn’t go by myself,” Barkley told Traina. “And I would find it hard to go without Ernie, to be honest with you. Obviously me, Kenny and Shaq are close, but Ernie is the guy. So I would have to look at if they were gonna bring those guys, but also if they had other guys in mind who to partner with. The good thing about it is, I got a two-year window that I don’t have to worry about anything.”
Barkley wouldn’t go to Apple or Amazon by himself, and basketball fans wouldn’t want him to go by himself. As long as they keep the band together, fans probably won’t be overly concerned about where they have to go to watch Barkley, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaq. But it was notable to hear Barkley admit he would consider joining Apple or Amazon, rather than giving WBD Sports some leverage in their upcoming NBA negotiations by preaching loyalty.
Interestingly, while everyone is always concerned about how much longer Barkley wants to work on Inside the NBA, the popular analyst cautioned that it could be Johnson who retires first.
“Ernie is the one guy we probably have to worry about more than anybody walking anyway,” Barkley said. “I’m gonna stay at least two more years, but Ernie, I know he’s toyed with the idea of leaving in the next couple years also. It’s gonna be a very interesting next couple of years because nobody knows, because Amazon and Apple have so much damn money, they might just outbid ESPN and Turner.”