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Front Office Sports: Amazon is proving it’s a contender to land NBA rights



is off to a strong start with the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.” Given its early success, the e-commerce giant is making the case that it can take on the next mega sports rights package: the NBA.

The NBA’s current U.S. media deals with Disney’s

ESPN/ABC and Warner Bros. Discovery’s

TNT expire after the 2024-25 season.

The league will likely seek $50 billion to $75 billion for its next multi-year package, said sources. Amazon is paying the NFL around $1 billion a year to exclusively stream TNF through 2033.

Amazon has long been cited as a potential NBA bidder. But every week it defies expectations with TNF, that theory becomes more of a reality.

“The (NBA) has certainly done very well for a long time with ESPN and Turner. But interest in the league — and its strategic importance — are only growing,” said John Kosner, the former NBA and ESPN executive turned investor and advisor.

Commissioner Adam Silver’s NBA is the most technology-forward sports league. Amazon believes TNF’s better-than-anticipated performance — and built-in audience of over 200 million Amazon Prime customers — makes it attractive to the global NBA, said sources. 

By Nielsen data, TNF is averaging 11.3 million viewers — up 11% from the first four games last year across NFL Network and a tri-cast of Fox Sports, NFLN, and Amazon. 

By its own metrics, Amazon Prime Video is averaging 13.3 million viewers for TNF through four games. 

Amazon is proving it can draw a harder-to-reach audience: TNF viewers are eight years younger (46 years old) than those on TV networks. 

TNF is averaging 2.7 million viewers in the advertiser-coveted 18-34 demographic, up 67% from last year.  

The NBA has already embraced streaming in China. The league boasts a $1.5 billion-a-year deal with Tencent Holdings that enables it to reach over 500 million basketball fans in China. 

Similar to the U.S., that rights deal runs through the 2024-25 season.

Big Tech vs. Legacy Media

The NBA surpassed $10 billion in revenue for the first time with the 2021-2022 season. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon won’t get the NBA without a fight. ESPN and TNT will battle to retain their packages, said sources.

The two companies will pay the NBA a combined $24 billion under the current nine-year deal, which kicked in during the 2016-17 season.

It’s still to be determined how the NBA will split up the next rights package. Sports betting giants will also be looking to carve off a piece of NBA media rights to create a “watch and bet” environment, said sources.

With a bidding war looming between tech and TV competitors, the NBA’s almost certain to double its current rights fees to at least $50 billion, said sources.

That would jack up its annual media payout to the $5 billion range from the current $2.6 billion. ESPN pays $1.4 billion vs. TNT’s $1.2 billion (ESPN’s sister Disney network ABC gets exclusive rights to the NBA Finals).

But the bidding could go even higher. CNBC previously reported the NBA could seek $75 billion for its next rights package. Amazon and the NBA declined to comment.

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