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  • 🥞 Sunday Bunch #4: Of Hoops and Horsey Sauce

🥞 Sunday Bunch #4: Of Hoops and Horsey Sauce

It's Cinco de Mayo. Join me for Sunday Bunch.

Welcome to Sunday Bunch, a weekly menu of interesting things to give you a running start on the week. I am your host, Kyle Bunch.

If you’re receiving this, you’re in the inner circle of people whose opinion matters most and/or people I felt comfortable spamming. This whole thing is still a bit of an experiment, from the content to the format, so I would welcome any feedback you have at [email protected].

🥇 The NCAA is about to get wrecked by student loan debt.

🤖 ChatGPT has memories now. Your search history is judging.

🥛 Milk is having an identity crisis. I blame that emotionally-abusive Oatly.

There’s more where that came from, so let’s dive in…

The NBA’s Big Month

May and June of 1996 was a great time to be alive. I was finishing high school, into that time of year where they make you show up and you basically just spend all morning deciding if it's Taco Bell or Del Taco for lunch that day.

We had Twister, The Rock, and Mission: Impossible at the theaters, the Macarena dance craze sweeping the nation, and the NBA was in peak form.

Jordan and the Bulls won title #4 against the Glove and the Sonics, covered perfectly for the NBA on NBC by Marv Albert and crew.

Days later the Lakers drafted a guy who was also just graduating high school named Kobe. Weeks later as I packed for USC, Jerry West signed another one-named superstar, Shaq.

I’m not crying, you’re crying

At the end of the next season, Jordan and the Bulls had ring #5 and were about to start their Last Dance, the Spurs won the lottery jackpot with Tim Duncan, and the league signed a then-record new TV deal with NBC and TNT.

Flash forward a decade to early 2007:

The Shaq/Kobe pairing delivered three rings, the Duncan-led Spurs won three rings, and I find myself in New York working at R/GA with Nike on the post-Jordan ascendancy of a new class of superstars.

It was a transition time for the NBA: Jordan was gone (Wizards-era and all), the Shaq/Kobe divorce was still fresh, LeBron had arrived but was yet to break through in the postseason.

In June 2007, LeBron reached that first Finals (losing to the Spurs), KD was drafted, and the NBA signed another huge media deal, this time an 8-year, $7.4 billion deal (~$930 million/season), this time with ABC/ESPN and TNT.

For their then-record investment, the NBA's broadcast partners got 8 years the Kobe and LeBron show, with all but one of the Finals in that stretch not including one of the two legends.

By 2014, with the LeBron show putting butts in seats and cord cutting and the specter of streaming looming, NBA media rights went into the stratosphere. The league re-upped with ABC/ESPN and TNT at a whopping $2.6 billion/year in a 9 year, $24 billion deal through the 2024-25 season.

That brings us to today.

On the court, we're getting an unobstructed view of the future. Absent from the conference semis are perennial NBA first-teamers and playoff MVPs including LeBron, KD, Steph, Giannis, Harden, Russ, Embiid, Jimmy Butler, or Kawhi.

Looking at the top player on the seven teams who've made it to the conference Semis, the oldest is 28. Five of them are under 25, including the 22-year old Anthony Edwards who torched the defending champions for 43 points on the road in Denver last night.

That list doesn't even include the alien rookie of the year with the seemingly endless ceiling Wemby, who will surely become a playoff mainstay and center of focus for the next decade+ assuming he stays healthy.

Growing the NBA’s future on Alien Ant Farm

The NBA's current deal with Disney (ABC/ESPN) and WarnerMedia (Turner Sports/TNT) will expire after next season. Ever since the NFL signed its record-shattering 10-year, $100 billion media rights deals in 2021, the NBA said it was seeking at least $8 billion/season in this next deal.

The two incumbents had an exclusive negotiating window, which closed on April 30. Both still have the option to match any deals that come in, but they'll now have to contend with competition from outside bidders (and each other).

So who’s joining the party?

There has been talk of all the usual suspects, including YouTube, Apple, and Netflix, but it now seems to be down to four. The two incumbents, and two credible challengers:

DISNEY (ABC/ESPN)

The presumption is that Disney and ESPN are in it to win it. ESPN needs the NBA, Iger is regularly season courtside and more importantly came up through ABC Sports and would never let a deal like this walk out the door.

WARNER BROS DISCOVERY (TNT)

TNT has been an NBA partner since 1989 and between the importance to the TNT brand and business, and the larger sports streaming ambitions of its parent Warner Bros Discovery, the deal remains critical and in theory is still theirs to lose. But out of the two incumbents, they’re thought to be the weaker of the two.

What would basketball be without these guys?

AMAZON (PRIME VIDEO)

One way or another, it does seem like Amazon is going to get in on the NBA. If reports are to be believed, they’re gunning for NBA League Pass exclusivity and some package of games, perhaps similar to Thursday Night Football with the NFL.

COMCAST (NBC/PEACOCK)

The sleeper pick enters the arena. There have been NBC rumblings for some time, but the talk was that they were preparing an offer possibly as much $2.5 billion/season to outbid WBD and TNT.

In a battle of checkbooks, Comcast has more room to invest than the other legacy media players. Between the NFL, Olympics, and the Premier League, Peacock has momentum in live sports streaming. You can squint and certainly see how this could make as much sense for them as it does Warner.

So how will this go down? Every report on the negotiations feels like it was planted by one of the interested parties, so your guess is as good as mine.

I think most people share my view that it’s perfectly fine as-is, but if some degree of change is inevitable, I will tell you how I want this to go down:

Move the NBA on TNT team and schedule over to ESPN. Apologies to the long, storied partnership, but there’s only room for one cable network in the mix and it needs to be ESPN. Have to bring over Chuck, Ernie, Kenny, and Shaq, that is non-negotiable. But once you do, are you really going to cry over the loss of TNT?

Give Amazon Prime Video League Pass, with a free game streaming every night. One of my favorite things about MLB.tv is that each day’s schedule has one game streaming for free. It might be a 12:30pm et start, but you can always open the app and find a game streaming that day. The NBA should work with Prime to create an integrated offering: a once/week Thursday Night Football-style premium broadcast produced by Amazon, and then League Pass subscriptions with a single free, out-of-market broadcast game available every night.

NOTE: Reports say Amazon’s actually seeking exclusive rights to a full night of games each week, as part of its proposed deal. My idea is still better.

Put a weekly regular season game broadcast on NBC. Just roll it into the Sunday Night Football spot, or pick another night…just establish that regular cadence of a national game once a week.

Take me back to the place where regular season basketball was a broadcast moment.

Take me back to 1996.

Cue the theme music.

The NBA's Next Home

Where will we be watching NBA games in 2025-26?

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🤖 FKA Twigs appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and talked about creating and training her own deepfake ‘AI twigs’, which will give fans and journalists the ability to interact directly with the artist, in their own native languages, while she focuses on creating new music.

🤠 Inspired by Cowboy Carter and the horse she rode in on, Arby’s will release a limited-edition Chardonneigh’s Horsey Sauce in a frosted glass wine bottle with the silhouette of a “majestic horse in mid-gallop.”

🧖 The co-founder of Meow Wolf is bringing Submersive, “the future of the spa experience” to Austin. It won’t open until 2026, but promises state-of-the-art contrast baths, neuroaesthetics, a dash of AI, and an $88/visit price tag.

JULY 2021

@ithinkyoushouldreels

it's got nothin to do with piss... #ithinkyoushouldleave #timrobinson #ithinkyoushouldleavewithtimrobinson #calicocutpants #itysl

MAY 2024

🐎 Mystik Dan won the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. I trust you wore your Panera Bread Bowl Hat to your festivities.

🏀 And then there were (almost) 8. The first round of the NBA Playoffs will wrap today, but most of the next round is already set:

  • Denver vs Minnesota (MIN leads 1-0)

  • Oklahoma City vs Dallas

  • Boston vs Winner of Cleveland vs Orlando

  • Indiana vs New York

Apologies to my Philly friends, but I am happy to Knicks fans get a series win, they’ve been deprived for too long.

More importantly–because to be honest I don’t really care about Knicks fans–the NBA is better when the Garden is still going in May. This energy is what we have needed in playoff basketball for a long time:

I am sad to see the Sixers go, because when it comes to internet drive-bys, Philly fans are undefeated:

Keon Coleman is a wide receiver from Florida State who was picked by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the NFL Draft. Normally we wouldn’t be talking about a second round pick right now, but this man is already a national treasure:

Josh Allen, get him the damn ball. We need Keon to have a long career with as many postgame press conferences as we can get.

I have to give a few quick shout-outs before I go:

🙌 to my friends at Raw Materials, for taking home three Webbys for their incredible brand and site design. Feel honored to say I played the tiniest of parts in launching this exciting new company.

🎉 Finally, happy birthday to the OG and R/G in R/GA, Larry David’s digital doppelgänger, Bob Greenberg.

I appreciate you joining us for Sunday Bunch. Have a great week, I’ll see you same time, same place next weekend.

Cheers,
KB

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Footnotes

1  Tennis during its peak being the one possible exception.

2  $32 billion for the 2023 fiscal year. Tracking at almost $9 billion/quarter this year so far.

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