By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
The NBA’s Utah Jazz, whose games have been available on the regional sports network, AT&T SportsNet, has signed a new TV deal that will make all non-nationally televised Jazz games available for free on a local Utah channel, KJZZ, channel 14, and a subscription-based streaming service. (KJZZ is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.)
The switch comes after Warner Bros. Discovery, the owner of the three AT&T-named RSNs, earlier this year notified the major professional sports leagues that it no longer wanted to broadcast their games. The Jazz’s new TV deal will not include any RSN, but cable and satellite operators will continue to provide the team’s games through KJZZ.
The Jazz’ move to free over-the-air local television follows similar moves by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. (The Suns’ TV deal with local broadcaster Gray Television is being challenged in court by Diamond Sports, the owner of the Bally Sports regional sports networks.)
“Our top priority has always been providing the best fan experience possible. When we first took over stewardship of the team, 39 percent of Utah households had the ability to watch Jazz games, so as soon as the window opened last fall for us to rethink our approach to broadcasting, we began exploring all options to provide fans the most reliable access to Jazz games,” Ryan Smith, a governor of the Utah Jazz, said in a statement. “This new approach is one of the most important investments we have made since purchasing the team because it allows us to deliver Utah Jazz games to all 3.3 million plus Utahns.”
The paid streaming service will deliver every available Jazz game, the team said, as well as unprecedented access to the team, front office, and corporate management via exclusive behind-the-scenes footage.
It’s unclear if the switch to a combination of free local television and paid streaming will match what AT&T previously paid in rights fees. One industry veteran today suggested on Twitter that it won’t come close.
“In terms of total media revenues….Not a chance!” opined Bob Thompson, the retired president of Fox Sports Networks. “Jazz already controlled ad inventory and paid production costs. The current deal pays them another $22m in rights. Assume 72 local games. Jazz would have to sell another $300k per game in order to be whole. That is probably at least 10x what they do per game now.”
The Jazz, which said the NBA has approved the new TV deal, said Utah Jazz TV broadcasters Craig Bolerjack, Thurl Bailey, and Holly Rowe will continue to call games, while Michael Smith and Alema Harrington will host the pre- and post-game TV show hosts.
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— Phillip Swann