The Arizona Coyotes, a National Hockey League (NHL) team, recently announced a multi-year deal with E.W. Scripps Co., a broadcast station owner, to air their local games on over-the-air networks. This move comes as Diamond Sports Group, the largest owner of regional sports networks, rejected its contract with the Coyotes due to bankruptcy protection. With the ever-increasing trend of cord cutting, cable TV bundles are facing significant pressure, while broadcast stations are seizing the opportunity to secure more sports media rights.
Previously, the Coyotes’ local games were broadcasted on Bally Sports Arizona, along with other professional teams like the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. However, after Diamond Sports Group rejected their contracts, these teams sought new TV homes for their local games. The Suns and Mercury, for instance, reached a similar deal with Gray Television, a broadcast station owner, and are even launching a direct-to-consumer streaming option. MLB took charge of distributing the Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres’ games earlier this year.
Broadcast station owners, including Scripps and Gray, are actively vying for the rights to broadcast local games. With Diamond Sports Group filing for bankruptcy, more opportunities may arise for these stations to acquire sports media rights. Scripps, for instance, already has deals in place to carry the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and a set of WNBA games on its networks. On the other hand, Warner Bros. Discovery is planning to exit the regional sports network business by the end of the year, potentially opening up more opportunities for ownership transfers.
While most consumers traditionally watch broadcast networks as part of their cable bundles, these channels are available free-of-charge over-the-air. This transition to over-the-air broadcasting allows teams to increase their reach and potential viewership. However, the economics of the regional sports network business model, which has long supported leagues and teams through high fees, remains uncertain in the context of deals with broadcast stations. It is unclear whether these new arrangements can replicate the financial success of the previous model.
The landscape of local games has undergone significant changes as consumers increasingly abandon traditional cable TV bundles in favor of streaming services. This shift has had a major impact on regional sports networks like Diamond Sports Group, leading to bankruptcy and the non-payment of rights fees to certain teams. Diamond Sports Group is now seeking to renegotiate its rights payment deals while under bankruptcy protection.
The Arizona Coyotes’ search for a new TV home underscores the ongoing disruption in the sports media rights industry. As cord cutting continues to gain momentum and streaming services become more prevalent, traditional cable TV bundles face mounting pressure. Broadcast stations, eager to capture the rights to local games, are stepping in to fill the void left by regional sports networks. However, it remains to be seen whether these stations can achieve the same level of financial success and support for leagues and teams as the previous model.
The Arizona Coyotes’ move to a new TV home highlights the changing landscape of sports media rights. While cable TV bundles face challenges due to cord cutting, broadcast stations are seizing the opportunity to secure more local game rights. The collapse of Diamond Sports Group and the rise of over-the-air networks have further accelerated this shift. However, the future of the regional sports network business model remains uncertain as the industry navigates the transition to streaming services and renegotiates rights payment deals.