The NBA is reportedly finalising contracts with Disney, NBC and Amazon in media rights negotiations, potentially prompting legal action from Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD).

According to Sports Business Journal (SBJ), these deals, expected to be worth billions annually, mark a significant shift in the broadcasting landscape and potentially end WBD’s long-standing association with the NBA.

Industry sources believe ESPN will pay $2.8bn annually, up from $2.6bn, for the NBA’s “A” package, which includes the NBA Finals, a conference final, weekly primetime games, the WNBA and shared international rights.

NBC’s “B” package is expected to be worth $2.6bn annually, up from $2.5bn, featuring “Basketball Night in America” on Sundays after the NFL season, two weekly primetime slots, conference semi-finals and a conference final.

Amazon’s deal, valued between $1.8-$2bn, will likely include the Emirates In-Season Tournament, the SoFi Play-In Tournament, first-round playoff games, the WNBA and international rights.

The final adjustments, which sources say have been frequently changing, are expected to be completed soon. Once finalised, the networks will seek board approval for the bids. The NBA will then present NBC’s contract to WBD to see if CEO David Zaslav can match its total value.

However, given WBD’s $40bn debt and lack of NBC’s over-the-air infrastructure, sources believe WBD would need to offer more than $2.6bn to match the deal. NBC’s bid could include multiple weekly over-the-air games, making it nearly impossible for WBD to compete.

In February, WBD expressed a desire to retain its NBA rights. However, Chief Financial Officer Gunnar Wiedenfels emphasised the importance of remaining disciplined in valuation beliefs during negotiations.

This issue has left sources suggesting Zaslav will have three options: pass on the NBA; significantly overpay for the “B” package; or take the NBA to court over the definition of a match.

Exploring the final option, sources indicate the league will argue that a match isn’t just about the dollar amount, but must also include equivalent ad revenue, broadcast windows and other factors – something WBD reportedly disagrees with. The NBA is said to be preparing its lawyers for a possible legal battle.

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