By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
Phoenix Suns to Diamond Sports: ‘We think you’re toast.’
Diamond Sports to Phoenix Suns: ‘Toast? We’ll eat your lunch in court.’
That basically sums up the current state of the regional TV rights of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury after the two teams announced today that they have signed an agreement with Gray Television to broadcast their entire regular season on local Arizona TV channels starting with the 2023-23 season.
The stations will be KTVK, KPHA, and KPHE and their broadcasts would be a throwback to an era decades ago when local stations were the primary carrier of local pro sports teams. The Suns say 2.8 million Arizona households will have access to the games via the local channels which can be seen for free with an antenna.
The move is a clear vote of no-confidence in Diamond Sports which last month declared bankruptcy and is seeking to reorganize its regional sports network business, which includes the 19 Bally Sports RSNs. While Diamond has been engaged in a war of words with Major League Baseball over whether it should be able to retain its MLB regional TV rights, this is the first sign that the NBA is having serious concerns over whether to stay with the struggling company.
Diamond quickly issued a statement today saying that the Suns and Mercury have breached their contract to allow the company’s Bally Sports Arizona channel to broadcast the games. The Gray deal, if it survives the likely legal challenge, would replace the Diamond agreement.
“The Phoenix Suns breached our contract and violated bankruptcy law, and Diamond Sports Group will pursue all remedies against any parties that attempt to exercise control over our property interests while we reorganize. This is an improper effort by the Suns to change their broadcasting partner without permitting Diamond to exercise our contractual rights,” Diamond Sports said.
Update: John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that the Suns-Diamond agreement had expired but that Diamond has the right to match any offer for the next set of rights.
The Suns countered that the two teams are within their rights to dump Diamond and sign with Gray.
“Diamond’s position is totally inaccurate. We are moving forward with this deal and could not be more excited about what it means for our fans and our future,” said Suns and Mercury CEO Josh Bartlestein.
The Suns and Mercury also announced a direct-to-consumer streaming deal with Kiswe that will allow fans to subscribe directly to an app that offers the games.
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— Phillip Swann