Charles Barkley becomes a fraud in the NBA rights battle

Since he engineered the merger of one of the largest media and entertainment conglomerates, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery David Zaslav has faced no shortage of criticism. He is get it from shareholders who were outraged by Zaslav’s exorbitant compensation, which remained high (almost 50 million USD last year) at a time when the company’s stock was low (currently at about $8 a share). And him get a lot during last year’s strike in Hollywood, where Zaslav became an avatar for a corporate class hostile to creative people.

Now he’s taking it from one of his most senior employees. With Warner Bros. Discovery have risk lose future NBA rights, Charles Barkley is throwing elbows at Zaslav and the Warner Bros. C-suite. Discovery. “I work with these guys,” Barkley said last week in an interview above Dan Patrick Show, “Obviously they screwed this up.”

For the past 24 years, Barkley has been celebrated as a broadcaster throughout his legendary playing career. As a co-host of Inside the NBA on TNT, owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, Barkley has become a true national treasure, basketball’s own John Madden, with a unique style that veers from honest to brutal to preternaturally hilarious. Along with cohost Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, and fellow Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, Barkley is gone Inside the NBA became one of the most popular shows on television. But as negotiations over the league’s next media rights deal move into an advanced stage, there are growing signs that TNT will lose the NBA. Zaslav speak Thursday, they will continue their conversation with the NBA, while also highlighting the company’s other sports programming, a “full content buffet from around the world.”

But Inside the NBA is a staple for basketball fans and potential dissolution led to criticism of Zaslav, with Barkley leading the charge. ABOVE Dan Patrick Show, He called the company’s leadership “clowns” and “fools,” and lamented that his colleagues Inside the NBA suddenly faced an uncertain future. “Morale is terrible,” Barkley said with characteristic bluntness, “plain and simple.”

Like everyone else, Barkley suspects that the NBA sent Zaslav to the doghouse for crimes speak A few years ago the company didn’t necessarily need the tournament. “The first thing is they came out and said, ‘We don’t need the NBA.’ So I think that probably made Adam angry,” Barkley said, referring to the NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “I do not know that. But when we merged, that’s the first thing our boss said: ‘We don’t need the NBA.’ Okay, he doesn’t need it. But me, Kenny, Shaq, Ernie and the guys that work there, we needed it. Now it sucks.

An NBA spokesman declined to comment.

Barkley continued to go viral in an interview published Thursday, criticizing Zaslav for leaving employees in the dark.

“They did a really bad job keeping up with us,” Barkley speak on an episode SI Media with Jimmy Traina. “Just say, ‘Hey guys, we’re in the middle of negotiations. It’s 50-50.” Just say something. We haven’t discussed it yet. And I don’t mean it for me. The people who work there. They are the ones on pins and needles. Just say something so everyone can breathe a little. I can’t imagine having a family and bills. In fact, you may have to start looking for another job. You won’t wait a year and then get fired.”

Barkley said in the interview that he had no relationship with Zaslav. The two spoke briefly earlier this month at a Warner Bros. gathering. Discovery in New York, where Barkley and O’Neal both guest-starred. “I met him twice,” Barkley said. “I met him last week on the front line. He said hello and that was it. I think he should have said something to us when we were there, to be honest with you, but he didn’t.”

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment.

The NBA last renewed its media rights deal in 2014, when it reached an agreement with incumbent rights holders Disney, owner of ABC and ESPN, and Time Warner, the TNT’s parent company at the time, while both companies were still in the development stage. exclusive negotiating window with the union. This time, the NBA emerged from that point with no deal signed. And while by all accounts Disney is poised to maintain its position as the primary rights holder, new bidders have emerged and threaten TNT. Amazon has reportedly positioned itself to win a piece of the new media deal, while NBC now looks like the favorite to replace TNT as the holder of the NBA’s B package. However, as an incumbent, TNT has corresponding rights, like the negotiations, the details of which are unclear. Even with Barkley.

“I think this is our third negotiation and we always sign during exclusivity periods. It was never put out to bid,” Barkley said on the SI podcast. “Obviously Adam [Silver] are sad. I think he’s sad. Honestly, there’s something going on with you, because if we had the power to match, it would simply be—’Yeah, we’d get along’ or ‘We wouldn’t get along. .’ That’s what worries us the most.”

Barkley revealed earlier this month that his contract includes an opt-out if TNT loses its bid for the tournament, setting off feverish industry-wide speculation about his position—and the rest of the team. Inside the NBA crew—could land in such an event. Puck reported this week that Barkley is “highly coveted by ESPN, NBC and Amazon.” During his interview with Patrick, Barkley was receptive to the idea of ​​putting the show under his own production company.

In the coming weeks, the NBA will officially crown a new champion. It remains to be seen whether it will finalize a new media deal. But in the meantime, Barkley showed no signs of being silent in his criticism of Zaslav. New York Times published an interview with Barkley this week, noting that he spoke to the newspaper despite “numerous efforts by security and public relations officials to dissuade him” from doing so and in the face of objections from Smith . “It’s everyone’s life,” Barkley told Age. “Not my life. Not Ernie’s life. Not Kenny’s life. Not Shaq’s life. But everyone who works here. We had probably 100 people working on the show. So they are like real people. I watched their children be born, graduate from high school, graduate from college.”

And Barkley said in Thursday’s podcast interview that his bosses at Warner Bros. Discovery did not call him about his recent comments. “They know better,” he said.

If this is the end for Barkley at TNT, then he is offering a parting reminder of what made him so successful there.


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