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NBA wants 'many more' media partners amid shifting sports landscape, league executive says

The NBA has a straightforward plan when it comes to the complicated world of sports media rights: It wants to be seen everywhere and by everyone.

"Our fans are consuming the NBA in diversified ways, so our goal as a sports league is to try to make sure that no matter where the fan is, no matter how they're consuming content, and in particular sports content, that we're there," Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner of the NBA, told Yahoo Finance in an interview on Monday.

Tatum's comments come as the NBA remains in deep negotiations for its next media rights package that could fetch up to a reported $76 billion.

The league's current contract with Warner Bros.' TNT Network (WBD) and Disney's ESPN (DIS) expires at the end of next season, and rumors have swirled in recent weeks that WBD, which shells out a reported $1.2 billion annually, could lose the media rights to its portion of games to Comcast's NBCUniversal (CMCSA). Amazon (AMZN) is also in talks for an exclusive streaming deal through Prime Video.

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"There are more choices than there ever have been in the media landscape," Tatum said. "So that requires going out and having partnerships with many more people in that space, whether it's social and digital media partners, streaming partners, and traditional media partners as well."

A P.J. Washington (25), de los Mavericks de Dallas, le bloquean un intento de retacada Derrick White (9) y Jaylen Brown (7), de los Celtics de Boston, durante la segunda mitad del Juego 2 de las Finales de la NBA, el domingo 9 de junio de 2024, en Boston. (AP Foto/Steven Senne)
P.J. Washington (25) of the Dallas Mavericks and Derrick White (9) and Jaylen Brown (7) of the Boston Celtics during Game 2 of the NBA Finals, June 9, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Tatum declined to comment on the status of the rights negotiations. He did, however, note that "sports consumption has been defined by an increase in optionality for the fan and ultra personalization." The league will adopt a "more hybrid" approach when it comes to visibility as a result.

"There's still very much a role for traditional television. We very much like the fact that our finals are on traditional network television," he said. "But we also understand that a new generation of fans are consuming content through streaming platforms. And so we want to make sure that we have that availability of programming and content across all different channels."

Sports content is highly desired by media companies looking to gain access to massive audiences of loyal viewers. That allows sports leagues to bid up the price of rights in negotiations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, NBCUniversal submitted a bid worth around $2.5 billion — more than double what WBD currently pays. The network is close to a deal with the league to show about 100 games per season, with half airing exclusively on its streaming service, Peacock.

Disney, the NBA's other major broadcast partner, would retain its share of the league's media rights after reportedly agreeing to increase its payment of $1.5 billion a year to $2.6 billion in order to renew the deal, according to the report. The company will carry fewer games compared to its current package, although it will be able to stream games on its upcoming ESPN streaming platform, set to launch in fall 2025.

Meanwhile, Amazon (AMZN) is close to securing a streaming rights package through its Prime Video service for a reported $1.8 billion. The Journal said the package includes both regular season and playoff games, plus the league's play-in tournament and a share of conference finals, which would rotate between the media partners.

Notably, WBD has the ability to match third-party offers before the NBA enters into any official agreements.

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on X @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com.

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