- The Phoenix Suns and Mercury have become the first teams to move on from the troubled broadcaster Diamond Sports Group.
- Diamond, which operates over a dozen Bally Sports regional sports networks, filed for bankruptcy last month.
- The NBA and WNBA’s Suns and Mercury will show their games on TV and streaming going forward.
The Phoenix Suns and Mercury of the NBA and WNBA, respectively, are the first teams to part ways with their Diamond Sports Group-owned regional sports network, opting instead to broadcast games for free over the air and on a new streaming service.
Beginning next season for the Suns, and next month when the Mercury’s regular season starts, games will be available locally on three TV channels and streaming online as part of a new partnership with Gray Television and Kiswe, the teams announced Friday.
The price of the streaming service hasn’t been announced yet, but the teams said fans will be able to watch the Mercury for free for at least the first season.
Rights to broadcast the games were previously held by Bally Sports Arizona, a cable channel owned by Diamond Sports Group, which operates over a dozen Bally-branded regional sports networks and filed for bankruptcy last month.
The teams said the new TV system will allow their games to be broadcast in about 2.8 million homes, more than triple the number of homes they previously reached in their exclusive contract with Bally Sports Arizona.
“By going entirely over the air and building our own DTC product, the Suns and Mercury will now be accessible to millions more fans in Arizona and globally,” Mat Ishbia, the new owner of the teams who bought a controlling stake in both earlier this year, said in a statement.
While switching to traditional TV and a direct-to-consumer streaming service will likely mean less money than they could get in cable, Ishbia told the Associated Press he is not concerned with the decrease.
“Money follows success, not the other way around,” Ishbia told the AP. “Too many people are sitting here and saying, ‘You’re going to get less revenue, why would you want to do that?’ Listen, I want to get more fans. I want to get more fans, take care of people and do the right thing.”
Diamond — a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns and operates 19 Bally Sports channels covering 16 NBA, 14 MLB, and 12 NHL teams — is in the midst of legal proceedings over its Chapter 11 bankruptcy declaration last month.
Diamond reportedly made all its right payments to its NBA teams for the current season, but missed payments to at least Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Arizona Diamondbacks, leading some of those teams to ask the court to terminate their contracts so they can take over broadcasting their games.
Diamond said the move violates bankruptcy law and previous contracts with the teams that expired recently, the AP reported. Suns CEO Josh Bartlestein told ESPN Diamond’s claims were “inaccurate,” and it wouldn’t stop the teams from moving forward with the new agreement.
The new announcement won’t have an impact for fans watching the Suns until next season, as the NBA playoffs, which the Suns are still playing in, are broadcast nationally by TNT, ESPN, and ABC.
A representative for Diamond did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Saturday morning.