The owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury is striking out on his own—shifting away from traditional broadcasting deals.
- The bankruptcy of Diamond Sports Group in March has resulted in numerous sports teams attempting to void their streaming contracts.
- Two Phoenix, Arizona-based teams are making a similar attempt, shaking their traditional local streaming contract with Bally Sports Arizona to seek new opportunities.
- Both teams announced on Friday that games will be broadcast on over-the-air local television in Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma and that free broadcasts will be made available through streaming.
- Diamond has argued that the announcement is a breach of contract for the sports teams, while ESPN is warning that the decision could cost tens of millions of dollars in the short term for the teams.
- The team owner believes the change will “more than triple the reach” of their audience.
Why It’s Important
The rise of streaming has deeply disrupted the traditional audience for sports entertainment and broadcasting in the U.S. This has created a demand for streaming services to find new ways to meet the demand for sports—with Amazon Prime purchasing the rights to broadcast Thursday Night Football exclusively and ESPN attempting to consolidate all of sports streaming under its name.
The Suns’ and Mercury’s move to shift away from cable does come at a short-term cost, but the vision behind the decision is that it is “starting off with a new way of thinking about” sports broadcasting. New media is slowly replacing traditional media, and finding new opportunities and revenue will be important for the next iteration of modern entertainment.
“The media world is changing … We’re going to be the leaders starting off with a new way of thinking about it,” says teams owner Matt Ishbia.
The teams’ new deal with Gray Television will reportedly give access to games to 2.8 million homes, tripling its potential audience size. “We’re not focusing on money. We’re focusing on winning, success, and taking care of fans, taking care of the community. What happens is you always end up making money. It always works out. We’re going to have more fans than ever before,” says Ishbia.