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Exclusive: TNT’s Shaq and Charles Barkley Could Head to NBC if Adam Silver Demands, as Per Ex-Agent

Published 05/15/2024, 11:35 AM EDT

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The sports media landscape is shaking. On it hangs the future of our beloved duo – Shaq and Chuck. With the NBA looking for prospective broadcasting suitors, many are showing up to offer their services. From Amazon, Google, and Netflix to NBC, everyone’s in queue. It seems like a ticking time bomb before we last hear the words Inside the NBA on TNT on television. With the modern-day NBA scenes changing, who better to comment than Leonard Armato, who revolutionized the sports marketing arena by giving the world Shaquille O’Neal and many others. Armato, like many of us, is reeling with the same passion, which he exclusively shares with our NBA correspondent in an hour-long interview. Join EssentiallySports on a journey where we understand his perspective on the changes that are happening, the insider insights, and other scoops related to the potential deal.

Bay Area native, Vishal Kolar, goes straight to the question we’re all confused about: Will Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley break up?

Vishal: Very polarizing news around the NBA’s deal with TNT possibly coming to an end. I don’t think I am speaking for myself, but every basketball fan’s favorite show is the show with Kenny, Shaq, and Chuck. Now that ‘Inside the NBA’ might not exist, that means breaking up Shaq and Barkley; how do you see that from a fan’s perspective in terms of changing the NBA media landscape? And do you think that Shaq and Chuck would stay together if they go to another media network together? 

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Armato: It seemed about a week and a half ago that NBC was going to take the package and NBA was gonna get kicked to the curb. But I think what’s happened is that David Zaslav, who’s the head of Warner Bros Discovery who owns TNT, doesn’t want that to happen that easily. They’re fighting hard to keep it. It’s still up in the air, but it’s going to happen. 

“Should TNT lose the NBA, the likelihood is that Shaq and Chuck break up which would be a shame. But there’s one little wild card that you need to keep in mind. Adam Silver in the NBA controls who it is that will be reporting on the NBA. So they can say look, you can’t break up Chuck and Shaq. We just love that combination too much.”

Armato does not stop here. He shares the same sentiment that millions of other fans do.

Armato: You could see Shaq and Chuck going to an NBC or could see them going someplace else. There’s no question that they are the most entertaining duo in all of basketball and there’s no other show that even compares to Inside the NBA on TNT. 

Vishal: But do you think that it works the same on streaming? Like, at least I am skeptical that if you take them off national TV and put them on Amazon Prime it’s not going to have the same viewership appeal and kind of culture, any thoughts on that?

Armato: Well first of all, if it airs on NBC, it would be even bigger in terms of audience. Since it reaches even more people than TNT. So yes, it would be great on NBC. As far as Amazon Prime goes, I don’t think the audience on Amazon Prime would be as big as the audience on TNT because they don’t have that history. You’ve seen what they’ve done with the NFL. It took a while to grow their audience. So, I would agree that the audience wouldn’t be as big if they’re on Amazon Prime, at least at the beginning. But Amazon would look to at Shaq and Chuck as a way to grow the audience, so they may even pay them more money because of that, who knows. 

While everything lies in the garden of uncertainty, we can be sure of one thing – the Shaq and Chuck duo might not break up. As Armato said, it might take some time to build that viewership on streaming services like Amazon Prime, but eventually, their outreach should kick in and will be delivered to a much larger audience base, with the duo acting as a catalyst.

It might look like the end of an era, but it’s far from that.

How can the Amazon Prime deal disrupt the NBA media landscape?

One thing is clear from EssentiallySports’ conversations with Leonard Armato: “There’s no other show that even compares to Inside the NBA”. It rightfully fits the emotions of millions in a sentence. But what happens when a streaming giant like Amazon takes over?

Such a deal will definitely disrupt the sports media landscape and change the future of the NBA. This way, Amazon will get exclusive rights to a package of games, and the tech major will grow to be the owner of a second major sport after the NFL.

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If this happens, Amazon Prime will exclusively stream the regular season and the post-season, with major coverage on the Conference Semi-Finals and the Finals, just like they’re doing with NFL’s Thursday Night Football right now. Again, drawing in millions of viewers, eventually.

The expansion of such a media partnership also means that traditional platforms like TNT and ESPN will dim down, reducing their TV slots strategically, and diversifying the media coverage and outreach globally. This again works for the league, since they now will get international viewership, unlike the current times. ESPN can retain some rights on, let’s say, the NBA Finals, which would ensure they do get their share of viewership, traditionally too. But with the growing demand for streaming services, ESPN would also look to expand to a direct-to-consumer streaming service in the coming years, which can integrate well with the model of an Amazon Prime.

Of course, this is a major challenge for Warner Bros. Discovery, who owns TNT. They are bound to face a multitude of challenges to retain their NBA package. Losing the NBA right now would be a significant blow to their revenues too, especially when it means they’re cutting ties with Shaq and Chuck and “Inside the NBA”. But the NBA is playing smart too. They’re also trying to balance their media presence across traditional and modern platforms. They will look to explore free-to-air, pay-TV, and other streaming giants to maximize their revenues by driving up NBA’s media rights to cater to a wider and more diverse audience base.

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But we also have Comcast and NBC in the picture. Comcast, which owns NBC and the streaming service Peacock, would also bid to get their hands on an exclusive NBA package, bringing the NBA back to NBC for the first time since 2002.

So, in this way, the cornerstone of NBA programming is bound to change. But with Armato’s comments, we can be sure that nobody in their wise minds would break up the beloved duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. This is all from this segment of EssentiallySports’ conversation with Armato. Make sure to check out our other articles from the interview with the sports marketing mogul.

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Written by:

Anuj Talwalkar

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Anuj Talwalkar is a Senior NBA Writer at EssentiallySports, who is marching towards touching 3000 articles. As a writer who specializes in game analysis, post-game pressers, thrilling perspective on players and their performances, he loves merging his passion for writing with the complex human-dramas that unfold everyone on-court. At ES, he is known for his quick coverage of breaking news, an expertise that is now inspiring the junior writers.
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Edited by:

Saumya Khanduja