The Changing Landscape of Local Sports Broadcasting

The Changing Landscape of Local Sports Broadcasting

The Arizona Coyotes, a professional ice hockey team in the NHL, recently announced a new TV deal with E.W. Scripps Co., a broadcast station owner. This move signifies a larger trend in the sports media industry, as cable TV bundles face increasing pressure due to cord cutting. With more consumers opting for streaming services, traditional broadcast stations are actively seeking rights to local sports media. The transition from cable TV to over-the-air networks is a significant development for the Coyotes and their fans.

Diamond Sports Group, the largest owner of regional sports networks, played a crucial role in this shift. Court papers revealed that Diamond chose to reject its contract with the Coyotes, leaving the team without a TV home for their local games. Diamond Sports Group is currently under bankruptcy protection, and this decision showcases the financial challenges faced by regional sports networks. The demise of their contract with the Coyotes also resulted in the defunct status of Bally Sports Arizona, the network on which the team’s games were previously aired.

While the Coyotes’ local games will now be available on over-the-air networks, the team and Scripps Co. have also promised a streaming option for fans. This move is in line with the changing viewing habits of consumers, as more and more people choose to watch content online. By offering a streaming option, the Coyotes can reach a wider audience and tap into the growing popularity of online streaming platforms. However, it remains to be seen whether deals with broadcast stations can replicate the financial viability of the regional sports network business model.

Scripps Co. and Gray Television, another broadcast station owner, are actively vying for the rights to local sports games. This competition has intensified due to the Diamond Sports Group’s bankruptcy filing, which has potentially made more media rights available. Scripps Co. has already secured deals to carry the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and a set of WNBA games on its networks. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Discovery is planning to exit the regional sports network business by the end of the year. This transition has created opportunities for other teams to find new broadcasting partners. Recently, the MLB’s Houston Astros and NBA’s Houston Rockets acquired AT&T SportsNet Southwest and will relaunch it as the Space City Home Network.

The landscape for local sports games has significantly shifted as more consumers opt out of traditional cable TV bundles and embrace streaming services. While broadcast networks are generally part of cable bundles, they are also available for free over-the-air. This accessibility increases the reach and potential viewership of teams. However, the regional sports network business model, which heavily relied on high fees, may no longer be sustainable in this evolving landscape. The economic viability of deals with broadcast stations remains uncertain.

Diamond Sports Group’s financial struggles have contributed to this changing landscape. The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and has stopped paying rights fees to some of the teams on its channels. It is currently seeking to renegotiate other rights payment deals while under bankruptcy protection. The rejection of the Coyotes’ contract highlights the significant amount of annual fees owed by Diamond to the team.

The Arizona Coyotes’ shift to a new TV home on over-the-air networks reflects the larger trend of cable TV bundles facing pressure due to cord cutting. Broadcast station owners, like Scripps Co. and Gray Television, are actively competing for the rights to local sports media, particularly with the opportunities presented by Diamond Sports Group’s bankruptcy filing. The emergence of streaming services and the changing viewing habits of consumers are contributing to the transformation of the local sports broadcasting landscape. While the financial model of regional sports networks may no longer be sustainable, the accessibility and potential viewership offered by free over-the-air networks and streaming platforms present new opportunities for teams and fans alike.

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