Another key Warner Bros. Discovery sports executive is leaving. Last November, long-time Turner executive Lenny Daniels (who was then WBD Sports U.S. president) exited the company, with his direct reports moving to reporting to WBD Sports chair and CEO Luis Silberwasser. Now, one of those key figures who used to report to Daniels is also leaving. That would be WBD Sports executive vice president and general manager Tina Shah, who announced that news on LinkedIn Monday:
Where this gets potentially quite interesting is on the rights deal negotiation side, especially with NBA rights coming up soon (after the 2024-25 season). A 2016 writeup on Shah by Eric Fisher at Sports Business Journal had a lot to say about her role in rights deals, including Turner’s last NBA deal:
A 15-year veteran of Turner, Shah been an influential behind-the-scenes player in nearly every major sports deal the network has struck during that time, including the original formation and subsequent renewals of multiplatform rights deals with the NBA, NCAA and MLB, the purchase and redevelopment of Bleacher Report, the creation of ELeague with WME-IMG, and employment agreements with many of the network’s leading on-air talent. In each instance, the long-term nature of the deals demanded that Shah not only forecast future media and content trends, but also create business rules to help govern them.
…“The sports content business has evolved and grown so much, it’s almost like a new job around here every year,” said Shah, who interned with Turner Sports while in law school at neighboring Emory University in Atlanta during the late 1990s. “It’s required a constant evolution. Thinking about the future of the media landscape, particularly as far out as some of our deals go, remains very challenging but incredibly interesting.”
So that’s a significant figure to exit ahead of NBA negotiations, especially as many of those negotiations often benefit from people who have experience with the players involved and with the previous deals. And WBD has already drawn some questions for their approach around a potential new NBA deal and sports in general, from CEO David Zaslav’s “We don’t have to have the NBA” to their plans to quickly exit their local RSN business. They have locked up their Inside The NBA talent long-term, but many of their other recent moves don’t seem too focused on sports.
Update: Silberwasser himself did have some notable comments to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal on the company’s desire to keep the NBA this week, though.
The NBA should expect Warner Bros. Discovery to be aggressive in trying to keep its rights, WBD Sports Chair and CEO Luis Silberwasser told me. “We love our relationship with the NBA,” he said. “We love the business that we have with them, and we look forward to a very bright future.”
…Speaking a day before the NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Silberwasser said that league officials leading the negotiations already know how much WBD wants to keep those rights when they come up after the 2024-25 season.
…Silberwasser: “I understand the noise out there. But I do hope that people see our commitment to the rights that we have and our commitment to making those rights better than they’ve ever been. If we were not interested in a long-term relationship with the NBA, we wouldn’t be doing the things that we’re doing. When we speak to our league partners, they know it.”
Silberwasser also spoke of the NBA’s long history with the Turner networks, which started in 1984. “It’s part of our DNA,” he said. “It’s 40 years of history that we have with the NBA. You can see it here in Salt Lake City. You can see that the way we treat this event is not just one more game or one more weekend, but something that is very special.”
It will be worth keeping an eye on where WBD goes with that, and on who winds up playing key roles in their rights negotiations after Shah’s exit.