By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
A Texas bankruptcy court judge today blocked the Phoenix Suns’ ballyhooed TV deal with Gray Television, saying the team violated the bankruptcy code when it unilaterally exited its contract with Diamond Sports, the owner of 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks, including Bally Sports Arizona.
The NBA’s Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury announced last month that they had signed an agreement with Gray Television to broadcast their entire regular seasons on local Arizona TV channels starting with the 2023-23 season. Team officials suggested the games would be available for free. See this article for more details.
But Diamond Sports, which declared bankruptcy in March, filed a motion in the bankruptcy court that said the Suns failed to honor a clause in its contract with the team that gave it the right to match any future offer for the TV rights. Diamond’s Bally Sports Arizona had carried the Suns up to the end of the 2022-23 regular season, but the team said the contract had expired.
Christopher Lopez, the bankruptcy court judge, today agreed with Diamond’s motion, voiding the Gray deal. However, the judge said the two must negotiate a resolution to their differences, using an impartial appraiser in the process.
It’s possible that the Suns and Diamond will ultimately agree to allow the Gray deal to proceed. But it’s also possible that Diamond will match the Gray offer and continue broadcasting Suns games on its RSN when the 2023-24 season starts.
Judge Lopez seemed to agree with Diamond’s contention that the Suns rushed an announcement of the Gray deal in an attempt to stop a likely objection from the RSN company. He remarked that the team ‘intentionally’ omitted language from a letter to Diamond that would have confirmed that the company had the first refusal right.
“What I find is that the Suns are saying one thing outside of this court and another thing inside it,” Lopez said, according to The Athletic.
The TV Answer Man will update this story if we get more details. A transcript of today’s court hearing can be found here.
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— Phillip Swann