Time Warner has surfaced as the leading candidate to take over the running of NBA TV from the league.
A spokesman for the NBA said NBA TV is offering buyouts to its full-time employees in preparation for handing off the network to a large media company with the kind of clout that could drive the circulation of the network, which is ad-supported.
Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, which owns cable networks such as TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies, might be able to leverage better deals for NBA TV, which has suffered by being relegated to digital sports tiers. A Turner spokesman declined to comment. Time Warner already owns a small stake in NBA TV.
Along with ESPN, Turner also recently signed an eight-year renewal of its contract with the NBA to carry regular-season, All-Star and post-season games on TNT.
Sports tiers are unpopular because they cost subscribers extra monthly fees. If Time Warner, which owns cable systems reaching more than 14 million subscribers, agreed to shift NBA TV from sports tiers to digital basic, the network would add millions of new customers.
For that reason, the only other media company perceived as a possible rival for the pickup of NBA TV is Comcast Corp., which is the largest cable operator in the country by far, representing more than 24 million subscribers.
Comcast also operates existing sports networks such as the Golf Channel and Versus and owns a number of regional sports networks. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Comcast owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.