Mar 4, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav and actor Dustin Hoffman attend the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, it appears clear that the NBA’s 35-year presence on TNT is nearing its end.

That appears to be just fine by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

On Thursday, CNBC published a report detailing the latest happenings regarding WBD’s negotiations with the NBA, including the belief that the media conglomerate would attempt to match Amazon’s portion of the league’s expected media rights package and not NBC’s. Included in the report was the tidbit that Zaslav is now “content” with WBD likely losing the NBA after recently reaching agreements to host select College Football Playoff games and NASCAR races (including an in-season tournament) in the coming years.

“Zaslav has told colleagues he believes NBCUniversal is overspending for the NBA, based on his company’s research into ratings and potential subscriber value for a subscription streaming service, according to a person familiar with the matter,” writes Alex Sherman.

Of course, that’s a convenient stance to take when you know you’re likely not going to be one of the NBA’s media partners past next season. And it hardly seems coincidental that such a stance from WBD is being projected in the same week that the league is finalizing its media rights deal with Disney (ESPN), Comcast (NBC) and Amazon (Prime Video).

But while Zaslav might be doing his best to spin TNT losing its top property, his employees are clearly anything but “content.” That much was clear during Charles Barkley’s appearance on The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday, as the Inside the NBA analyst spoke transparently about the current morale at TNT — which he says “sucks” — and his belief that Zaslav’s previous comments that WBD doesn’t need the NBA likely angered the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver.

“The first thing is they came out and said, ‘We didn’t need the NBA.’ So, I think that probably pissed Adam off,” Barkley said. “I don’t know that. But when we merged, that’s the first thing our boss said, ‘We don’t need the NBA.’ Well, he don’t need it. But me, Kenny, Shaq, Ernie and the rest of the people who work there, we need it. It just sucks right now.”

As for WBD’s future without the NBA, the recent deals with ESPN to sublicense CFP games and NASCAR indicate that the media conglomerate is still in the sports rights business. Time will tell whether that will be enough to keep Zaslav “content” as TNT prepares for life without the NBA for the first time in more than three decades.


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.