Early on Tuesday we got news that Comcast, NBC Universal’s 51% majority owner, paid $16.7 billion dollars to General Electric for the remaining 49% of NBC that GE had retained after Comcast’s initial investment in the media giant. In explaining what could have led Comcast to make the bold decision to double-down on their investment, Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing noted that Comcast may have considered NBC Universal’s sports programming to be the network’s greatest asset.
If Comcast believed that NBC’s sports content was the network’s crown jewel when they agreed to buy the outstanding shares from GE, will they be willing to make that jewel shine even brighter in three years when the NBA’s television contract with ABC/ESPN ends after the 2015-16 season? Could the NBA On NBC return?
Acquiring the rights to broadcast NBA games again certainly wouldn’t be cheap, but don’t forget that live sports programming will always have a unique niche in the market because fans don’t want to DVR games or watch them On-Demand.
The NBA On NBC was a hit in the 1990s due in large part to the presence of superstars like Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. Today, there’s no shortage of young stars like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and Carmelo Anthony who all figure to still be playing at a high level in 2016.
If Comcast can get rake in enough cash from NBC’s sports properties over the next couple of years, perhaps company executives will as bold as they were on Tuesday and put in a competitive bid with new NBA commissioner Adam Silver to acquire the league’s television rights once again.
For those who don’t remember the NBA on NBC (1990-2002), here’s a trip down memory lane: