May 19, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Detailed view of the Wilson game basketball during a timeout in the first half between the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Denver Nuggets in game seven of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, it appears to be a matter of not “if” but “when” the NBA will announce its next media rights deal with Disney (ESPN), Comcast (NBC) and Amazon as its new partners.

And “when” could apparently be very soon.

According to the Sports Business Journal‘s Tom Friend, the NBA “is formalizing written contracts with Disney, NBC and Amazon this week.” The move is believed to be the final stage of the league’s media rights negotiations, which could lead to significant fallout — and potentially legal action — from Warner Bros. Discovery.

By now, the details of the expected deal are largely common knowledge thanks to previous reporting and innuendo. ESPN will maintain the league’s top package, including the NBA Finals, but will see a reduction in its weekly offerings despite paying more than double what it did in its previous deal. Meanwhile, NBC will take over the NBA’s “B” package, with weekly primetime games — including a potential Basketball Night in America program on Sundays after the NFL season — and Amazon will receive a package that includes the In-Season Tournament, the Play-In Tournament, first-round playoff games, the WNBA and international rights.

Some of the details remain fluid — for example, it’s unclear whether Amazon will still host a conference finals every other season as had been previously reported. What does appear to be certain, however, is that the NBA is in line to more than double its current rights deal by receiving more than $7 billion annually from Disney, NBC and Amazon.

The most interesting aspect of all of this, however, might not have anything to do with Disney, NBC or Amazon. Rather, it will be how Warner Bros. Discovery handles the NBA bringing an end to its presence on TNT, which dates back to 1989.

While WBD reportedly has “matching rights,” Friend notes that the NBA could structure its deal with NBC in a manner that makes it virtually impossible for the media conglomerate to match the total value of the “B” package. As such, WBD — which is reportedly $40 billion in debt — could potentially take legal action to challenge the definition of its matching rights.

“Sources said the NBA is prepping its lawyers for a possible inquisition or lawsuit,” Friend writes.

Either way, there will be plenty of fallout, including the uncertain future of the NBA’s signature studio show, TNT’s Inside the NBA. For weeks — if not longer — it’s seemed clear where all of this is heading. Now it appears we’re about to get there.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.