A NBA Finals 2023 logo. Jun 12, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; A logo on a tunnel wall before game five of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a lot of discussion around the next NBA rights deal. Much of that has included talk of partners beyond existing broadcasters ESPN and TNT, especially NBC, Amazon, and others. And with NBC in particular, a key point many have brought up is them wanting the NBA Finals in alternate years, which has been extensively discussed as likely to happen in many reports on the negotiations. However, John Ourand of Puck threw extremely cold water on that Thursday.

In his “The Varsity” newsletter, Ourand wrote that ESPN has “essentially come to terms” on a deal with the NBA to retain “A” rights. Crucially, that includes the Finals every year. Here’s more from that newsletter on that part.

ESPN and the NBA have essentially come to terms on a package. Obviously, nothing’s signed yet. But I’m told that the two sides agreed to the broad framework of a deal that would keep the league’s “A package” with ESPN, which would include exclusive rights to the NBA Finals on ABC. This was a key point for ESPN, which did not want to share the NBA Finals with another mediaco. As part of its deal, ESPN will have less game inventory, which the league will use to create a third package.

Ourand goes on to discuss how there is still a lot to be determined with these rights. He writes that TNT Sports parent Warner Bros. Discovery “is not as far along as ESPN,” but is likely to keep much of what they have, with the remainder going to that third package. He also notes that NBC has “aggressively pursued” a package, that the NBA still has lines out to Apple and Netflix, and that there’s interest from the likes of Google (perhaps especially in the out-of-market League Pass package, similar to the NFL Sunday Ticket package they won for YouTube TV).

And all of that does still matter. But the Finals staying with ABC takes a whole lot of air out of the prospects for major change here, and is a significant difference from most of the reporting to date. In addition to the talk of NBC getting rights there (and talk of how important Finals rights would be to them), there were even suggestions a streaming platform might gain some exclusive Finals rights. But it now looks like the Finals broadcasting network will be the same as it ever was, and these new deals will come in with more of a whimper than a bang. (We will, however, likely get many more “Bang!” lines from Mike Breen.)


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.