Warner Bros. Discovery just sent a bright signal about its intentions regarding the NBA.
The media company has re-signed Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith to new multi-year deals to host TNT’s flagship studio show, “Inside The NBA,” just as anticipation is building for negotiations around the NBA’s next rights deals, which are slated to expire with Warner Bros. and Walt Disney’s ESPN after the 2024-2025 season. Shaquille O’Neal, the fourth member of the show’s studio team, struck a broader pact with the parent company in 2020.
“Inside the NBA” has, in the current era, become perhaps the biggest program on TNT, where new emphasis is being placed on showcasing games from the NBA and NHL.
““Our partnership with the NBA is very important to us and this long-term agreement with the ‘Inside the NBA’ team is recognition of their significance to that relationship,” said Luis Silberwasser. chairman and CEO of the unit that has been renamed Warner Bros. Discovery Sports after years of being known as Turner Sports, in a nod to entrepreneur Ted Turner, who founded TNT, TBS and CNN. “’Inside the NBA’ epitomizes the creativity and innovative spirit we’ve established throughout our successful, long-standing partnership with the league.”
Disney has also signaled its intention to keep its current relationship with the NBA, with CEO Bob Chapek vowing in August during an investor call to seek a renewal of ESPN’s current rights deal. The NBA Finals are a regular part of ABC’s broadcast schedule as well.
The new agreement may put to rest some speculation around Barkley, who has made remarks in recent months about seeking other opportunities. Barkley has been working with Warner Bros. Discovery since 2020, initially providing studio analysis for NBA games while making appearances on NBA TV. ”“We’re all a big family — Ernie, Kenny and Shaquille are brothers to me — and I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for them and all the amazing people who work on our show,” said Barkley, in a statement. “I’m not gonna lie, though, this is a life-altering deal…and I’m blessed to be able to do live television for a living.”
The deal keeps familiar presences tethered to Warner properties. Ernie Johnson is entering in 33rd season as host of Warner’s NBA telecasts and also helps cover Warner’s baseball telecasts. Kenny Smith, a two-time champion with the Houston Rockets, is in his 24th year as an analyst for “Inside the NBA.”
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