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Sources: NBA finalizes TV deals with ESPN, NBC, Amazon, but TNT could still match

USA TODAY
                                The Boston Celtics celebrate after winning the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden on June 17.
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USA TODAY

The Boston Celtics celebrate after winning the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden on June 17.

The NBA and network executives finalized contracts that will make NBC and Amazon Prime Video new partners, while maintaining ABC/ESPN as the home of the NBA Finals, under agreements that will extend for 11 seasons and be worth $76 billion, according to executives with direct knowledge of the deals.

While the NBA and its partner agreed to all the language, incumbent TNT Sports continues to threaten to match. The CEO of TNT Sports’ parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, has publicly stated he may attempt to use language in the current contract to remain involved with the NBA. If Zaslav goes through with that, he is expected to target Amazon’s package.

The next step is for the league’s governors to approve the agreements with ESPN, NBC and Amazon, which is expected to be a formality.

The board of governors has meetings Tuesday in Las Vegas. At some point following the final step by the league’s governors, the NBA will send the finished contracts to TNT Sports.

At that point, the company will have five days to make its move. If it declines, then the NBA is expected to be an official announcement before the Olympics, which open on July 26.

The NBA, TNT Sports, ESPN, NBC and Amazon declined to comment.

Under the new NBA television deals with ESPN, NBC and Amazon Prime, the regular season would feature national telecasts nearly seven days a week, according to sources briefed on the agreements.

The NBA will borrow a page from the NFL, as following the end of football’s regular season, NBC will have the NBA succeed the highest-rated primetime show on television, “Sunday Night Football,” while, on Thursdays, Amazon will do the same after its TNF coverage concludes.

During the entire regular season, Amazon Prime Video is anticipated to have its other games streamed predominantly on Friday nights and Saturdays.

NBC will have games throughout the full NBA season on Tuesdays. Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, is expected to have exclusive telecasts on Mondays. Peacock will also simulcast all the NBC games.

ESPN will slightly cut down on the amount of regular-season games, going from around 100 now to the range of 80. During the NFL season, it will have its games on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with its Saturday night game being its special ABC window. Later in the year, after the NFL, ESPN will have Friday night action, as well.

All three platforms will have playoff games, while Amazon Prime Video will be the home of the In-Season Tournament. Amazon and NBC will alternate showing conference finals. ESPN will have a conference final and the NBA Finals each season.

While TNT Sports sits on the outside looking in at the moment, ESPN sealing its deal with the NBA wasn’t entirely a slam dunk.

ESPN and the NBA executives did not reach an agreement before their exclusive agreement ran out in April as ESPN declined to budge on relinquishing any portion of the Finals. Shortly after, with ESPN paying $2.6 billion, just slightly less than the $2.7 billion checks it writes for the NFL, the NBA agreed to keep the Finals on ABC/ESPN exclusively. NBC is expected to pay $2.5 billion per season, while Amazon is going to dole out $1.8 billion per year.

In the current agreement, ESPN and TNT Sports pay a combined $2.6 billion on what is a nine-season agreement.

If TNT Sports stands down, this upcoming season will be its final season of games after nearly four decades. While Charles Barkley said he plans on retiring, all three networks are expected to pursue him and could just try to bring the entire “Inside the NBA” crew over to their platform. TNT Sports could also continue to produce the show in some form, even without NBA games.

For NBC, it has Mike Tirico and Noah Eagle as its potential play-by-players. With Dwyane Wade working the Olympics for NBC, he could be in position as a potential No. 1 game analyst. Amazon Prime Video has put the voice of the Final Four, CBS/TNT/YES’ Ian Eagle at the top of its play-by-play wish list and is expected to hire two or three game callers.

This article originally appeared in The Athletic.

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