Bill Simmons NBA Screen grab: ‘The Bill Simmons Podcast’

When it comes to the NBA and all things media, Bill Simmons is undeniably well connected. And on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, the Sports Guy weighed in on the league’s upcoming media rights deal, particularly as it relates to streaming.

“They’ve played it close to the vest, but I am pretty convinced that they’re going to go to a streamer in a way harder way than people realize. And it’s for some of the reasons that we’ve talked about on this podcast before,” Simmons said. “With the NFL, with the Amazon Thursday Night Football, with Sunday Ticket on YouTube TV and YouTube. And then the Peacock game they had.”

As Simmons explained, the reasoning has just as much to do with the medium itself as it does the bottom line of a potential deal.

“The secret sauce with this is they got an incredible amount of intel on their audience, on audience behavior, how long people watch, where those people are watching from, what ads they like. It’s a whole other level,” he said. “So you compare it to having your games on CBS or TNT, or even like if they’re showing it on Max vs. showing it on Amazon or showing it on Google/YouTube. The amount of intelligence you get, you almost can’t put a price on. And for Adam Silver and the owners, like they know this. It would be irresponsible for them to at least not put a decent chunk of their games on one of these streamers. Because they’re not just getting this money from the streamer. They’re getting this relationship, they’re getting this advanced metrics on their audience, on viewerships, on how they should approach game presentation — just everything. There’s no way they’re not doing it.

“So I actually think the media deal is going to be a little bigger than has been reported. I think that anybody that’s gotten into the live sports stuff with football has been delighted by it. It’s been great. Even Apple doing the MLS, they’ve been delighted by that. So this is where it’s going and I think the NBA likes to be on the forefront, not on the backfront of this stuff. So the media deal’s going to be significant.”

To Simmons’ point, it would be impossible to ignore the NFL’s increased relationship in streaming. After playing its first streaming-exclusive playoff game earlier this year, the league announced that it will air its season-opener on Peacock and plans to play as many as two games on Christmas Day in 2024 — creating a new package of assets to potentially sell to a streaming service.

Like the NFL, the NBA has made a habit of finding new pieces of its schedule to sell in recent years, including the In-Season Tournament and Play-In Tournament. Earlier this month, Sports Business Journal’s Tom Friend mentioned Apple as a likely suitor for the In-Season Tournament.

Simmons isn’t the first person to speculate about a major streaming component being included in the NBA’s next media rights deal and even Charles Barkley admitted last summer that Turner is “nervous” about the outsized roles streamers could play in the league. To that end, Simmons agreed, stating that when it comes to the streaming wars, Turner is currently trailing.

“If I had to bet, I think it’s going to be bad for TNT. Because TNT is kind of the old school, past-tense way of doing this stuff. I know they’re trying to get in there in Max and they’re trying to belatedly do a bunch of stuff. They’re in that bundle with ESPN and Fox,” he said. “But you know — Amazon and Google/YouTube, it’s just a whole other animal for what they’re able to do. So we’ll see how it goes. But the point is, a lot of money’s coming.”

[The Bill Simmons Podcast]

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.