Amazon Prime acquires NBA broadcast rights, per sources, putting pressure on TNT, NBC

In what will be a landmark move in sports media history, the NBA and Amazon Prime Video have the framework of a deal that will make the streaming service one of the main homes for the league games, executives with direct knowledge of the talks told The Athletic.

It is expected that Prime Video’s package will include significant regular season and postseason games, perhaps even some conference finals. The anticipation is that the final contract will be for at least a decade and begin the 2025-2026 season.

ESPN/ABC, as the website Puck reported Thursday, also has a framework of a deal with the expectations that an agreement will be completed. ESPN/ABC are expected to keep the Finals on its networks for the duration of its deals. Like Amazon, ESPN’s new contract is also expected to be at least a decade in length.

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All of the details are not finalized yet, but all sides are under the expectations they will get done. The NBA, Amazon and ESPN all declined to comment.

The NBA prefers to have three companies involved in its new deals, but has not ruled out adding a fourth.

The NBA is finishing up nine-year deals that pay it $2.6 billion on average from ESPN and TNT Sports. Those contracts end after the 2024-2025 season.

The advancement in the Amazon and ESPN talks leaves incumbent Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns network TNT Sports, to face off with NBC, owned by Comcast, for the likely last package of games. Warner Bros. Discovery has the right to match deals, but NBC could try to structure an agreement in a way that makes it difficult.

While there is still work to be completed for the final arrangements, the current packages are going to be pruned slightly to create the third partner. In one arrangement, ESPN will cut down from around 100 games to around 80, according to executives briefed on the talks.

A natural landing spot for Amazon’s regular-season games could be Thursday night, where it already has the NFL from September to early January. The NBA, in recent years, has moved its games off Thursday during the time period to not go head-to-head with the NFL. It is expected to then have significant playoff inventory. Amazon has shown interest in global rights, which has been a key part of the NBA’s negotiating strategy as it lined all of its domestic and international deals to end following the 2024-2025 season

The NBA has made it clear that it wanted to define itself for the next frontier of viewing with streaming at the forefront.

With ESPN, Amazon and the NBA all under the impression that they will complete deals, this puts the onus on TNT Sports, which has had the NBA since 1984. It is in a fight with NBC, which was the lead partner of the NBA before losing its rights in 2002. NBC, with its streaming service, Peacock, wants back in and is competing with Warner Bros. Discovery Sports for a deal.

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(Photo: David Dow / NBAE via Getty Images)

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