Nick Khan

Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are in an exclusive negotiating window with the NBA on TV rights. But when the window ends in the spring, don’t be surprised if NBC Universal enters the race in conjunction with a current rightsholder.

WWE president and former CAA executive Nick Khan dropped that rumor during a recent appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast.

“I would look for partnership on that,” Khan said. “Does NBC go to what is now Warner Bros. Discovery and say let’s split a package where we NBCU get Tuesday nights, you guys keep Thursday nights, and oh by the way, Warner Bros. produces all the games for us?”

“That could happen. I’m hearing some rumblings of that.”

Khan expanded on his theory by indicating that media companies exploring potential consolidation or mergers will want to keep costs low while still building out content libraries. If NBC wants back in on the NBA but doesn’t want to invest hundreds of millions in production, they could strike a coproduction or licensing agreement with WBD and its subsidiary WBD Sports.

If not NBCUniversal and WBD, Khan also threw out an ESPN/Apple partnership as another hypothetical version of such an agreement.

“The numbers that the NBA wants and the numbers that they deserve, it’s going to be tough for just two separate entities to go forward and pay that,” Khan explained. “But if you get a combination of four or six entities, if they’re working together, that’s a way to keep it organized and get maximum financial value.”

Right now, just ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery broadcast national NBA games.

Deals like this are not uncommon for smaller leagues (like the WNBA) or between local production companies and bigger distribution partners. But it would be a shift for the NBA.

NBC and WBD are two likely candidates to explore an agreement in this mold, though. Apple and Amazon could indeed look to get into NBA broadcasting, but both companies already have sports production divisions for the NFL (Amazon), MLB and MLS (Apple).

Andrew Marchand of The New York Post previously reported NBC’s pursuit of NBA rights.

No matter how it looks, if the NBA wants to double or triple its national broadcast revenue, it’s clear the league has to get creative.

[The Bill Simmons Podcast]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.