Charles Barkley says TNT, ESPN ‘nervous’ about losing NBA broadcasting rights

Charles Barkley has been around the NBA for decades and familiarized himself with the importance of broadcasting for growing the game along with the business involved in the process. As he looks ahead to the future, he sees an uncertain road for both himself and major TV networks.

Apple and Amazon have continued to make efforts to expand their reach into live sports. Amazon is now broadcasting Thursday Night Football games exclusively, paying the NFL more than $1 billion per year for the rights to one game per week during the regular season.

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Meanwhile, Apple’s partnership with Major League Soccer and its interest in expanding is one of the biggest reasons why Lionel Messi signed with Inter Miami. As both companies look to become even larger presences in sports broadcasting, the NBA could be next.

During an appearance on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast, Barkley told Jimmy Traina that both ESPN and TNT are nervous about losing the NBA’s broadcasting rights to Amazon or Apple.

“The next two years are going to be very interesting with the Apple situation, with the Amazon situation. I know Turner is nervous, I know ESPN is nervous that Apple and Amazon are gonna come in and take some or all of the NBA packages. That actually, to be honest with you, that’s really the next time I’m gonna have to make a major decision. I’ll have nothing to worry about for the next two years, but the whole sports landscape in the NBA is gonna change in the next two years when Apple and Amazon start bidding on the NBA properties.”

Charles Barkley on the future of NBA TV rights (H/T Awful Announcing)

NBA television rights are one of the biggest upcoming stories in the business of sports. Contracts with existing partners end after the 2024 season and multiple multi-billion dollar corporations are already preparing for a bidding war.

NBC, Amazon and Apple are all interested in challenging ESPN and TNT for the broadcasting rights to NBA regular-season games and the playoffs. Disney has already experienced massive layoffs and trimmed its payroll in 2023, all while exploring the possibility of selling a stake in ESPN.

Amid the ongoing uncertainty, with the NBA’s asking price for the rights to broadcast its games expected to skyrocket, Barkley has already begun contemplating his future.

Charles Barkley open to leaving TNT under one condition

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Barkley stated after signing his last contract with TNT, which was worth over $100 million, that he’ll “probably” retire when his contract expires. However, the former NBA All-Star also once suggested he would retire at 60.

The 1993 NBA MVP turned 60 years old in February and is now planning to work for at least the next two years. However, he raised the possibility of staying in broadcasting with another company if Amazon or Apple wants him and colleague Ernie Johnson.

“I wouldn’t go by myself and I would find it hard to go without Ernie, to be honest with you. Obviously me, Kenny and Shaq are close, but Ernie is the guy. So I would have to look at if they were gonna bring those guys, but also if they had other guys in mind who to partner with. The good thing about it is, I got a two-year window that I don’t have to worry about anything.”

Charles Barkley on possibly leaving TNT for Apple or Amazon in the future

Considering Barkley’s popularity among basketball fans and his tendency to draw an audience with hos comments, either Amazon or Apple would likely be happy to pursue Barkley if they land the streaming rights to NBA games. Given Amazon’s efforts to pair TNF broadcaster Al Michaels with people he had a positive working relationship with, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the company went after both Johnson and Barkley in the future.

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