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David Zaslav May Have Screwed Warner Bros. Discovery's Relationship With the NBA

By Andrew Sanford | TV | May 24, 2024 |

By Andrew Sanford | TV | May 24, 2024 |


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Live sports are the hottest commodity on television. In a world where people can stream shows and movies at home, at their leisure, getting people to tune in at a specific time can be tough. That affects ad sales, which affects the bottom line for media companies. If a network can offer an event you must watch live to be part of the moment, they can snag an audience. Even streamers are getting into live events.

AppleTV+ and Amazon have both added baseball games to their services. While the quality of their presentations may be lacking, they’re hooking people who want to watch their favorite teams. Netflix has been experimenting with live events, airing live shows like The Roast of Tom Brady and John Mulaney’s limited-run talk show Everybody’s in LA.

Peacock signed a huge deal with the WWE to carry their PLEs (premium live events) and their existing library. Then Netflix swooped in to air Monday Night RAW (WWE’s flagship show) for ten years starting in 2025. Since Peacock’s contract is up that same year, Netflix will likely try to become the wrestling company’s home for the foreseeable future. Then there’s MAX.

The streamer formerly known as HBO has embraced live events. Their parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery, owns TNT and TBS. Both networks have contracts to air live sports, like hockey and basketball. Both have made their way onto MAX in recent years. They also air WWE’s competitor, AEW, but have yet to give them a streaming home. They may have to, as David Zaslav has possibly screwed WBD’s relationship with the NBA because everything he touches dies.

WBD, who are the current media rights holders for the NBA, were set to negotiate a rights package this year. The rights are split into Package A, which includes the NBA Finals, primetime games, and the WNBA. Disney swooped in and secured that package for $2.8 billion. That’s twice as much as WBD paid a decade ago. Because Disney went all in, the NBA increased the price for package B, which includes a few primetime games, some playoff games, and an in-studio show. NBC and Amazon have bought in on package B, but WBD won’t play ball.

According to Sports Business Journal, Zaslav does not want to pay the $2.4 billion that will now be required for package B. However, he was willing to pay between $1.8 and $2.1 billion. In classic Zaslav fashion, he’s happy to turn down something that would cost him slightly more, even if it hurts the brand. The man has shown time and time again that he cares about his pockets and no one else’s. How he has retained his job is beyond me. When he’s done, WBD will be useless.

Back in 2022, Zaslav said, “We don’t have to have the NBA,” when asked about the upcoming negotiations. It was a pigheaded “tough guy” tactic that Charles Barkley believes helped mess this whole situation up. Barkley is a host of Inside the NBA on TNT and sat down on The Dan Patrick Show where he did not mince words.

“The first thing is they came out and said, ‘We didn’t need the NBA.’ So, I think that probably pissed Adam [Silver] off,” Barkley said to Patrick. “I don’t know that. But when we merged, that’s the first thing our boss said, ‘We don’t need the NBA.’ Well, he don’t need it. But me, Kenny, Shaq, Ernie and the rest of the people who work there, we need it. It just sucks right now.”

Barkley added that the situation has been a shot to morale and that he may produce the show on his own if WBD and the NBA can’t reach a deal. The former NBA player also said he feels bad for the show’s crew; people with families and bills to pay. People that David Zaslav consistently overlooks or acknowledges with the same concern one would have for a piece of toilet paper before wiping their ass with it.

Given Zaslav’s track record, things aren’t looking promising for more NBA on TNT. It would be a huge blow to WBD’s future, which would not bother Zaslav, who received $49.7 million last year by canceling or shelving products instead of making them. At this point, I would believe he doesn’t want the NBA rights because he would actually have to produce a show or two and (gasp) pay people who aren’t shareholders. Instead, the NBA looks like it may be headed back to NBC. At least that means more Roundball Rock.