NBA analyst Charles Barkley not interested in working 'like a dog' if he joins another TV network

The state of the NBA’s television rights has been a hot topic partly due to the popularity of the longtime running studio “Inside the NBA,” which features Ernie Johnson and former NBA greats Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith.

Despite being one of the league’s broadcast partners for the past few decades, TNT might be on the verge of losing its broadcasting rights deal to competitors. A potential new media deal could include Disney/ESPN, NBC and Amazon, which would possibly leave TNT’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), on the outside looking in.

Earlier this month, the Sports Business Journal reported that the NBA is expected to begin formalizing deals with Disney, Amazon and NBC. However, before the contracts receive final approval, WBD leadership will have the opportunity to match the “total value” of other offers, according to the report. 

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If TNT and the NBA part ways, Barkley could become a highly-sought after talent on the media free agent market. Barkley has spoken out about the negotiations multiple times, and last week he said the uncertainty has negatively impacted workplace morale.

“Morale sucks, plain and simple,” Barkley said during an appearance on the “Dan Patrick Show.” 

“I just feel so bad for the people I work with, Dan. These people have families, and I just really feel bad for them right now. These people I work with, they screwed this thing up, clearly, and we don’t have zero idea what’s gonna happen. I don’t feel good.”

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Barkley recently told Sports illustrated that some questions will have to be answered as he continues to evaluate which media company he would consider working for in the future.

“I would have to look at their packages,” Barkley said. “I don’t know who’s going to have what, so I couldn’t even make an educated guess, even hypothetically. There will be two important questions: What do you have, and where you gonna do the show from?

Barkley reportedly has a clause in his contract that allows him to go elsewhere if TNT loses out on the NBA package.

ESPN currently airs a variety of NBA-related shows on its platforms. It is not uncommon for Stephen A. Smith and other high-profile talent at ESPN to appear on multiple programs throughout a given day to discuss NBA topics.

Barkley could end up working closely with Smith and might make appearances on shows such as “First Take” and “NBA Countdown” with some level of regularity, if he lands at the network. 

However, he threw cold water on the idea that he would be interested in taking on commitments to multiple programs if he signs with ESPN.

“They’re not gonna work me like a dog,” Barkley said. “ESPN Radio, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes. I mean, HELL NO! As much as I love ESPN, I just turned 61. The notion that I’m going to be working like a dog into my mid-60s, that’s definitely not going to happen.”

No official announcement about the future home of NBA games has been made, and league Commissioner Adam Silver cautioned that negotiations for the broadcast packages are ongoing, and the outcome is unknown.

“Who knows,” Silver told TMZ earlier this month. “We’re all still talking. Who knows how it’s gonna work out.”

Silver also expressed confidence that at least two of the “Inside the NBA” stars will continue to cover the NBA for years to come, regardless of which network holds the broadcasting rights.

“We’re never gonna lose Charles and Kenny,” Silver said. “They’re always going to be covering the NBA. . . . I can’t imagine those guys [on ‘Inside the NBA’] won’t be performing and announcing together in the future, and we all love them.”

The league’s current media rights deal will expire at the end of the 2024-25 season.

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