TNT? More Like A Sparkler

We’re about to celebrate the Fourth of July, the NBA draft has come and gone and the free agency period is in high gear.  Still, no OFFICIAL word on where its television contracts will be going a year from now.  One can only imagine how busy Yosemite Zas and his legal eagles at TNT Sports, the fun and games sector of WBD, have been in pressuring and cajoling Adam Silver and his henchmen for trying to find SOME way for them to stay in the mix.  Despite whatever PR presence and bravado they’ve been trying to maintain.

But just in case their maneuvers are ultimately as successful as the Dallas Mavericks’ defense in the Finals, TNT is doing what it can to make it seem like they are soldiering on regardless.  The latest salvo in that battle of perception was fired yesterday, as TV Technology’s George Winslow reported:

TNT Sports and the Mountain West Conference (MW) have reached a multi-year agreement for a full slate of live college football games to air exclusively on truTV and Max beginning this season.  

As part of the deal, truTV and Max will present 14 Mountain West college football games during the inaugural season, with coverage kicking off with San José State hosting Sacramento State on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 10 p.m. ET.

Admit it, you can’t wait for that epic NoCal showdown, either?  Stanford-Cal?  Those ACC carpetbaggers?!?  Harrumph!

If one were to take Winslow at face value, this is the just another quiver in a growing bow of arrows that media buyers will seemingly salivate at in the same manner that they do for the NBA.

Warner Bros. Discovery has responded to the likely loss of its NBA basketball rights by expanding its portfolio of other sports rights

As part of that effort WBD inked a deal to air some College Football Playoff games and on June 27, TNT Sports and the Big East Conference announced a new six-year media rights agreement that will feature more than 65 regular season Big East college basketball games airing across TNT – as the lead network – along with TBS, truTV and Max, beginning with the 2025-26 season. 

The Mountain West deal brings additional live sports programming to truTV – which debuted a dedicated TNT Sports programming block in primetime earlier this year – and Max. This will mark the return of college football to TNT Sports, which last televised games in 2006. 

There’s one small detail that gets glossed over–these games won’t be airing on either of the WBD flagship cable network, but rather the orphaned former home of unscripted originals and the least compelling NCAA tournament games.  And a substantially lesser-viewed channel than both of them.

The other was one that FRONT OFFICE SPORTS’ Jon Lewis picked up on in his story:

Outside of the French Open, which will air exclusively on the TNT Sports networks, WBD is not the lead partner in any of the deals.

If not said explicitly, it would have to be the case that WBD ranks third on the depth chart of Mountain West broadcasters behind Fox Sports and CBS Sports. It is almost certain that the WBD games are coming not from the existing Fox or CBS inventory but from the leftover slate of games that aired under the banner of the Mountain West Network.

Correct, tru will be carrying lesser games than a network that Paramount doesn’t even pay for public Nielsen measurement of.

And a quick scan of that schedule reveals that none of that Mountain West bounty will include games, even inconsequential ones, with the two former Pac-12 schools that are making the conference relevant at all.  Oregon State and Washington State games will be airing on the CW–ironically once a corporate stepsister to tru.  And in all likelihood will be competing head-to-head with the Mountain West, along with about a dozen other linear networks and streaming platforms in that high-HUT level late night window.

Personally, I’d be stunned if the COLLECTIVE audience of these 14 games matched the delivery of ONE Thursday night doubleheader NBA game.  Well, OK.  Maybe two.

But as long as these drips and drabs look like they’re making news that most writers other than Lewis seem to be comfortable regurgitating, expect more of these nuggets to come out, especially once the NBA does indeed make up its mind.

It may not be newsworthy.  But at least it’s tru.


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