This year, there’s been some chatter about NBC potentially re-adding NBA rights once they head to the open market. On Thursday, an executive from Comcast briefly talked about NBC’s interest in the NBA, keeping the door open while also not kicking it down.
During Comcast’s earnings call on Thursday, company president Mike Cavanagh called the NBA “a terrific property” and said that he would “like to see us take a look at” adding the league’s rights.
“We’re always looking to see if there are ways to add more value to our business,” Cavanagh said. “Obviously, the NBA is coming up. That’s a terrific property. We don’t necessarily need it given the portfolio we have, but given its strength and our historical involvement in the sport, it’s something I’d like to see us take a look at.
Ultimately, this brief comment from Cavanagh (who also talked about how they don’t plan to invest in ESPN) doesn’t tell us much, nor is it a surprise. NBC would be interested in the NBA at the right price for the right package. The network isn’t going to overpay for a subpar package.
Cavanagh’s comments somewhat resemble those made in November by Warner Bros. Discovery head David Zaslav, who said “we don’t have to have to NBA.” Zaslav pivoted in April and said he hoped the NBA and Warner Bros. Discovery would continue their relationship “long-term.” As Cavanagh said on Thursday, NBC doesn’t “need” the NBA, but the company would be interested in something long-term.
It wouldn’t shock me if NBC got back involved with the NBA on a less prolific agreement than the league’s current rights deals with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery. Think something similar to NBC’s Sunday Leadoff MLB package on Peacock, which includes one Sunday exclusive game each week. A comparable deal, possibly with an extra regular season or playoff games on the NBC broadcast network, would seem to make sense for both parties. It would allow NBC to get a foot back in the door with the NBA, would increase the rights fees drawn by the league, and wouldn’t dramatically impact other packages that could be sold to the NBA’s current or new media partners.
But with ESPN and WBD possessing an exclusive negotiating window with the NBA through next spring, and the current media rights deals still running for another two seasons, it’ll be awhile before we reach a conclusion to this discussion.