Apr 28, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) dunks against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of game four of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Comcast’s NBCUniversal is reportedly throwing down the gauntlet in the NBA media rights battle.

According to the Wall Street Journal, NBC is reportedly prepared to pay a hefty $2.5 billion annually to broadcast a package of NBA games. This comes as Warner Bros. Discovery continues to fight tooth and nail to maintain its current rights, but NBC is planning to double Warner’s TNT’s average fee of $1.2 billion under its current deal.

Despite its long-standing partnership with the NBA, WBD couldn’t reach a new deal before the exclusive negotiation window closed last week, thus opening the door for NBCUniversal to make a historic bid. And NBC’s reported bid includes both regular season and playoff games, and they would not only plan to air these games on its flagship NBC network but also on its streaming platform, Peacock.

NBCUniversal holds a major advantage with its bid. They’ve discussed carrying two prime-time games a week, a strategy WBD can’t match since it doesn’t own a broadcast network.

WBD has the right to match any third-party offer, according to the WSJ. This means they’re currently making “last-ditch efforts” to retain NBA rights.

Here are more details from the WSJ’s reporting and how Disney fits into this:

Disney the parent of ESPN and ABC, is the other major TV partner and is expected to pay an average per-year fee of about $2.6 billion to renew its deal, the people familiar with the situation said, up from about $1.5 billion a year now.

Each TV partner would air fewer games under their new deals than under the current pacts. The league took some games away from its TV partners during this year’s rights negotiations to create a package for a streaming partner. Amazon’s Prime Video has already reached the outlines of a streaming rights deal with the NBA.

The league’s negotiations with its streaming and TV partners are fluid, and the parties are still haggling over who gets rights to air the most high-profile games and series. Amazon is likely to get a share of the Conference Finals alongside the other partners, and Disney’s ABC is on track to retain the rights to the NBA Finals, some of the people said.

While TNT boasts a strong lineup with March Madness, NHL and NASCAR, losing the NBA could be a financial game-changer. The NBA was a major draw for distributors, justifying a premium for carrying Warner Bros. Discovery channels. Without it, they may face pressure to lower carriage fees, impacting the overall revenue.

The WSJ also points out that losing the NBA rights would be a major blow to Warner Bros. Discovery’s upcoming sports streaming venture with Disney and Fox.

[Wall Street Journal]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.