NBA on TNT analyst Charles Barkley drew a lot of attention this summer for publicly discussing approaches from LIV Golf and how that might have him leaving Turner Sports (now Warner Bros. Discovery Sports). Barkley wound up not making the jump in the end, saying he was “staying with Turner for the rest of my TV career.” It’s unclear how long that will be, as Barkley has often mused about retiring, but he had a reported three years and $30 million left on his existing contract at that point. And now, per a conversation Mikey O’Connell of The Hollywood Reporter had with Warner Bros. Discovery US Networks Group chair and chief content officer Kathleen Finch and US Networks Group CMO Karen Bronzo, Barkley has signed a new deal that will go beyond basketball:
Charles Barkley has signed a new contract with Warner Bros. Discovery. "I’m excited to find other ways to put him on television talking about something other than basketball," Kathleen Finch, the exec who leads TNT and TBS, told my colleague @mikeyoconnell https://t.co/b2UkkyOXjI
— Alex Weprin (@alexweprin) October 12, 2022
Here’s more on that from O’Connell’s piece, which also has a lot on their sports strategy and their ideas of cross-promoting sports and non-sports talent:
Finch: With the sports audience that we have, we have all these men coming to us. We have to figure out how what can we do to hold those men.
…Bronzo: We’re looking very closely at the duplication of the audiences between a sports and our other networks. We know that people who watch the Major League Baseball watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. That’s a real opportunity for not only Triple D but for other Food Network programming.
Finch: Including with talent. Will we put Charles Barkley on an episode of Celebrity IOU? Will we have Guy Fieri calling a baseball game? There are just lots of opportunities to take our household names, seed them across platforms and pull those audiences back and forth.
…Speaking of sports, one of your first problems in the new portfolio was Charles Barkley going public with his salary and threatening to leave Inside the NBA for the LIV Golf league. Is that sorted?
Finch: Well, that’s a lucky problem to have. Last week, I had lunch with Charles — who is just a lovely man. It was really fun to sit down with him and celebrate his new contract, because he is such a fabulous part of that team and he is just such a really special guy. I’m excited to find other ways to put him on television talking about something other than basketball. Because he has a lot to say. He’s just a regular guy interested in a lot of things. I got him excited about Celebrity IOU.
There are no contract details revealed yet, so we don’t know if this is a longer term or if it’s just more money for Barkley (seen above on TNT last June) over the existing term in return for both sticking around and trying out some of these potential non-sports roles. (TNT did try a general hot-button issue talk show with Barkley in 2017, initially called The Race Card, then American Race, but that only ran for four episodes, and it sounds like the non-sports content here will be much different and much lighter.) At any rate, it is certainly interesting to see that Barkley’s gotten a new WBD contract in the wake of his flirtation with LIV.