Jun 12, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; The Denver Nuggets celebrate after center Nikola Jokic (15) was awarded the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award after winning the 2023 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Monday marks a significant milestone in the negotiations for the NBA’s next media rights deal, as it is the final day of the league’s exclusive negotiating window with current television partners ESPN and TNT Sports.

And while it’s long been assumed that streaming will have a presence in the NBA’s next deal, it could turn out to be even more significant than originally thought. In an update on Monday, The Athletic’s Andrew Marchand noted that it’s possible that a streamer — such as Amazon’s Prime Video — could land either the conference finals or the NBA Finals at some point over the course of the league’s next deal.

“The notion that a pure streamer, like Amazon, could have significant games, including conference finals and perhaps even the NBA Finals at some point over the life of a long-term deal is a possibility, according to executives briefed on the NBA’s discussions,” Marchand writes.

While The Ringer’s Bill Simmons expressed his belief that streaming will have a bigger presence in the NBA’s next media rights deal than most realize, the idea of a streamer hosting the NBA Finals — or even the conference finals — would obviously be quite the leap. It seems unlikely, however, that a streamer would immediately host either event when the new deal goes into effect for the 2025-26 season, with Marchand noting that the league is looking to sign at least a 10-year deal with three or four separate packages available to television partners.

Also of note: Marchand reports that the NBA “will broach the idea of partnering with ESPN, Amazon, Apple, Google/YouTube TV — maybe more than one of them — to potentially offer local games direct to consumers.” Such a model likely wouldn’t include exclusive rights — i.e., Knicks games would still also be available via MSG Network — with the idea being to give access to the games to as many fans as possible as cable continues to diminish.

As for who will land the next deal, Marchand states that ESPN and TNT Sports would like to keep their top inventories, but could ultimately take on reduced packages. Amazon stands out as the most likely streamer for high profile games, while the addition of packages like the In-Season Tournament and Play-In Tournament could provide flexibility with NBC having also signaled interest in returning to a partnership with the league.

[The Athletic]

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.