Add the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury to those who have cut the cord when it comes to cable television.
Mat Ishbia, the new owner of both franchises, announced Friday that his teams will move to free over-the-air television throughout multiple markets in Arizona, while also broadcasting games on a new streaming platform.
The Suns and Mercury in a statement from Ishbia said they would deliver all locally broadcast games to television and online streaming through a partnership with Gray Television Inc and video technology startup Kiswe.
The deal would increase the teams’ ability to reach customers who had cut their cable subscriptions, potentially allowing it to reach three times as many fans for each game, Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia said.
‘Cord cutters, cable subscribers, fans with an antenna – everyone will be able to watch Suns and Mercury games,’ Ishbia said in a statement.
Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia said his team will move to a new broadcast group
Diamond Sports Group – operating as Bally Sports – said this move violates US bankruptcy law
The move comes as the teams’ contract with Bally Sports Arizona expired after 20 years. Bally Sports’ parent company, Diamond Sports Group, filed for bankruptcy in March.
‘We’re going to have more fans than ever before,’ said Ishbia, who purchased the teams in February.
‘We’re going to have more people who will have eyeballs on Devin Booker and Deandre (Ayton) and Kevin Durant, Chris (Paul) and cheer the team on. And more people buying merchandise because they’re bigger fans.’
Diamond Sports Group said it would oppose the deal.
‘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,’ Diamond Sports said in a statement.
U.S. bankruptcy law protects debtors from having their contracts modified or terminated without their consent. Diamond has said it will continue to broadcast all games under its existing contracts and make all required payments to NBA teams during its bankruptcy.
Diamond, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group , televises games for nearly half of all teams in the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League under the Bally Sports brand.
Diamond filed for Chapter 11 protection in March with a proposal to cut $8 billion in debt.
Under the plan, the Suns and Mercury will produce their own games to broadcast locally
They will also be distributing the games from both teams nationally for free for chord cutters
It focused its objection on the Suns’ contract, but Diamond also broadcasts Mercury games, which will feature Brittney Griner, who has rejoined the team after her recent release from Russia in a prisoner swap with the U.S.
Griner had her first press conference with the team since her release from prison on Thursday, where she broke down in tears before thanking the media for their coverage of her struggles, while then telling them to cover the season in the same manner.
‘I would like to encourage all of you to be at our first game and our whole entire season, and the whole entire league as well, from start to finish,’ Griner demanded. ‘I expect to see this same coverage ’cause we have a great product.’
Diamond said at the start of its bankruptcy that it had good relationships with the NBA and its teams, pointing to MLB as the primary obstacle to its effort to pivot to streaming games online.
The Suns and Mercury did not disclose financial terms of the new broadcast deal or the terms of the current Diamond Sports contract.
Gray Television said the new deal would enable it to broadcast at least 70 regular-season games in future seasons.
Ishbia says the broadcasts will be aired on local television and a new streaming platform
While the Suns hope to more than triple available households in the state to 2.8 million, they are expected to take a financial hit when it comes to rights fees. Games are expected to be carried on over-the-air networks in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma and Flagstaff using an in-house production team.
‘We’re not focusing on money. We’re focusing on winning, success and taking care of fans, taking care of the community,’ Ishbia said. ‘What happens is you always end up making money. It always works out.’
Currently, the NBA is in the seventh year of a nine year contract with both ESPN and Turner Sports – with the latter broadcasting games on TNT.
No fees have been officially released, but rumors stated that the two networks have paid the league a combined $2.7billion for the rights.