Walt Disney Co., Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and YouTube have expressed interest in streaming local NBA games, potentially taking over rights now held by a broadcaster in bankruptcy, people familiar with the matter said.
(Bloomberg) — Walt Disney Co., Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and YouTube have expressed interest in streaming local NBA games, potentially taking over rights now held by a broadcaster in bankruptcy, people familiar with the matter said.
The media and tech giants are open to acquiring local rights held by Diamond Sports Group, but only if they can obtain a critical mass of teams, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks. DirecTV, the satellite-TV provider, has also expressed interest, two people said.
Local sports broadcasting is being reshaped by Diamond’s bankruptcy, with leagues exploring contingency plans and rival companies ready to swoop in to buy the rights. The company airs professional baseball, basketball and hockey in local markets under the Bally Sports name, and has already walked away from some deals.
Diamond Sports filed for bankruptcy in March — the result of debt taken on when its parent Sinclair Inc. acquired a number of regional sports networks.
Since the bankruptcy, TV deals in several local markets have changed hands. Earlier this year, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, whose games had aired on Bally Sports Arizona, announced a new TV deal with Gray Television Inc., which owns free local TV stations.
Bally Sports also dropped coverage of MLB’s San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. Those deals were taken over by Major League Baseball, which arranged for games to be shown by pay-TV distributors in those markets and on the league’s streaming service.
The NBA wants to avoid turmoil and is seeking certainty from Diamond that it will continue paying teams and airing their games next season.
But Diamond has been slow to make commitments because its future is uncertain. The company is negotiating contract renewals with two of its largest TV distributors, Comcast Corp. and DirecTV.
Those deals expire in the coming months. If Diamond’s channels are dropped by those providers, the company would be hardpressed to keep paying teams for their TV rights and could force the leagues to find alternatives.
“We are in ongoing discussions with the NBA about paths forward and are engaged in renewal discussions regarding the two distribution agreements that are up this year,” Diamond Sports said in a statement. “Our goal is to continue producing and broadcasting games for all NBA teams in our portfolio.”
The National Hockey League is also ready for the possibility its games will leave regional sports networks, known as RSNs.
“The NHL is closely monitoring the RSN situation,” a league spokesperson said. “We will be prepared to address whatever circumstances dictate to provide our fans with access to our games.”
While the NBA sorts out its future in local TV markets, negotiations over pro basketball’s next national media contract are expected to heat up starting next month.
Currently, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. are in an exclusive negotiating window to renew their contracts, which expire in 2025. The league has told the two companies it plans to carve out a package of games for a third company in its next contract, one person said.
Amazon, Apple and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube have been increasing their investments in live sports streaming, making local games a potentially attractive addition. Disney owns ESPN and operates the ESPN+ service, which could also stream games in regional markets.
Apple and Amazon declined to comment. YouTube didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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