‘The Starters,’ the group of bloggers and podcasters of Basketball Jones lineage who have done a show on NBATV for the past six seasons, are headed for free agency, reports Ben Strauss of the Washington Post.
The crew — Tas Melas, Leigh Ellis, Trey Kerby, and JE Skeets — have expiring contracts that NBATV is opting not to renew. NBATV is run by Turner Sports and owned by the NBA; the story had one source that believed this network decision was a result of cost-cutting measures forced by new Turner parent company AT&T, while someone from Turner said this choice was made independently of them.
Whatever the case may be, AT&T financed its acquisition of WarnerMedia with tens of billions of dollars in debt and as a company now has over $170 billion it needs to pay down ASAP. It can be true that AT&T is mandating cost reductions at Turner Sports without specifying exactly where those cuts come from.
The Starters have a cult following amongst NBA junkies. At the moment, it’s difficult to think off the top of my head a traditional TV partner for their work. The only NBA rightsholders are at Turner and ESPN, and they’re leaving one while the other has real roots set up in its NBA coverage. Nonetheless, there are a lot of digital sports outlets out there who could use a splash so it will be interesting to see where the crew winds up.