As the new National Basketball Association (NBA) season starts to get its legs underneath itself, discussions for next year have already begun. This is more than just players moving around and teams making changes to coaching staff, rather the NBA as a whole and the upcoming TV rights deal that expires after the 2024-2025 season. These new deals take place about once every decade with the last being put in place in 2014. As live sports continue to increase in value year after year, and the NFL media rights being signed in place well into the 2030’s, the NBA faces a unique and exciting opportunity to shape their brand and how sports are watched in the future.
Currently, ESPN and Warner Bros Discovery have rights with the NBA meaning that on any given day, there are games being streamed or played on ESPN, ABC, TNT, or any of the NBA’s league pass/TV channels. As we start to prepare for the future deal, there are a couple of names to watch out for who may try to poke their heads into the bidding. The first company that could shake up the industry is Netflix. Netflix does not currently carry live sports but has not shied away from the idea, as they were unsuccessful in the bidding for Formula 1 racing rights this past year. With their increased interest in adding live sports, it brings up discussion of companies pushing to add customers to ad-supported subscription tiers. Netflix’s average revenue per user is higher on these ad supported tiers because of the money they charge for advertisements. With NBA games, the price of these ads goes up, thus the average price per user goes up as well. Moreover, Netflix is a very global company which reaches 190 countries including over 12 with the ad supported tiers available. With the NBA growing on a global scale, it would make sense for Netflix to consider being a part of the NBA’s newest media rights deal.
To go along with the theme of global expansion, Google’s YouTube TV has been named as another streaming partner that may try to become a part of the deal. While YouTube TV is only limited to customers in the US, the NBA already negotiated with YouTube in the past that including uploading game highlights, full games, recaps, and behind the scenes. These videos of such are available to the more than 2.7 billion users of YouTube every month, making the talks between the NBA and Google that much more serious.
In the end, the NBA will have the final say in how to split up who takes what media packages. This means deciding what partners take what games, how often they air, and most importantly, how many partners they want in general. With too many, consumers will quickly be overwhelmed by the multitude of options and platforms in which they can watch games. The NBA plans and hopes to mobilize the NBA app and NBA.com further than they are now. The goal is for the app and website to serve as the primary source of information on teams and how their games are being streamed or broadcasted.
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