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Bally Sports Arizona Asks Out of Arizona Coyotes Contract

“The Arizona Coyotes remain under contract with Bally Sports Arizona and remain hopeful that the network will continue to broadcast our games this season.”

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Arizona Coyotes
Courtesy: National Hockey League

As Diamond Sports Group waits to learn whether or not it will be granted an extension to file a reorganization plan with its creditors under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it is seeking to forgo one of its broadcasting contracts. Just one week ahead of puck drop for the 2023-24 NHL regular season, Bally Sports Arizona is looking to exit its deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

If it is successful, the Coyotes would complete the gradual dissolution of professional play-by-play rights from Bally Sports Arizona.

The regional sports network lost the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second half of the MLB season, while the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury took their rights to over-the-air television.

“The debtors have determined, in their business judgment, that the Coyotes agreement no longer fits within the debtors’ long-term plans and should be rejected,” Diamond Sports Group said in a court filing. “….The debtors have discussed the relief requested in this motion with the Coyotes, and the parties have mutually agreed on this course of action.”

During efforts to construct an NHL-regulated arena in Mesa, Ariz. after being denied by a public vote in nearby Tempe, the Coyotes observed what was happening with Bally Sports Arizona. At that time, the team released a statement in July outlining its current situation and how it would affect its broadcasts for the upcoming season.

“We are fully aware of the developments regarding Bally Sports Arizona,” it read. “The Arizona Coyotes remain under contract with Bally Sports Arizona and remain hopeful that the network will continue to broadcast our games this season. Nonetheless, we will continue to evaluate all of our options, as needed, and will ensure that our great fans across the Valley are able to watch our games this fall.”

Throughout the process of Diamond trying to restructure after bankruptcy, the NHL and NBA have scrutinized the occurrences to make sure that the 27 teams the regional sports network operator carries are aired.

If the bankruptcy court grants this motion, it is unknown where Coyotes games would be televised. The first broadcast for the Coyotes is set to take place on Friday, Oct. 13 when the team visits the New Jersey Devils to open the season.

“The Coyotes have consented to this relief, and the debtors understand that the Coyotes and the NHL have transition plans in place to facilitate the continued distribution of Coyotes games to fans,” Diamond Sports Group said in the motion.

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FOX Sports Moving UFL Games to Friday Nights in 2025

“The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year.”

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The United Football League logo

FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently confirmed a report from Deadline last month that said United Football League games would move to Friday nights in 2025. The Deadline report had said FOX planned to replace WWE Smackdown with sports coverage from college football and basketball as well as games from the UFL.

Shanks’ comments were made during a Zoom with reporters about the news of their new agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series. SI’s Mike Mitchell reported that the UFL worked with FOX to move the games so they could complete their auto racing deal.

Shanks said many of FOX’s UFL games would be moved to Friday night when asked about the change but did not provide more detail.

The UFL was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this season. The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year and the recent conference championship games were up 57% over the averages from the USFL and XFL last season. According to Mitchell, the league saw a large increase in the 18-49 demographic on FOX compared to USFL programming in 2023.

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Report: WNBA Could Quadruple Media Rights Fees

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion.

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: Women's National Basketball Association

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video expected to be worth a collective $76 billion over the course of the deal. At the same time, the NBA is also negotiating media rights for the WNBA in which it has an ownership stake of approximately 60%. The WNBA could quadruple its annual media rights fee within these negotiations, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion. Throughout the season thus far, the WNBA has seen its ratings increase, drawing more than 1 million viewers across several matchups throughout the regular season. Moreover, discussion surrounding the league is further assimilating into the sports vernacular surrounding stars such as Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson, Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.

Ben Strauss of The Washington Post outlined how the NBA is in the process of considering one total bid from media companies that combines the value of media rights for the NBA and WNBA. With the league itself determining the value of media rights for the WNBA, he argues that it could either be “rocket fuel” for the league or that its augmented popularity “is more of an afterthought.” The possibility exists that it could be a combination of both extremes as well, but by having the league negotiate its media rights deal, quantifying the true value could be a more difficult task.

In a report from earlier in the year, McCarthy stated that the WNBA is likely to negotiate its own separate media rights deal if it is not receiving the remuneration that it wants. The WNBA attained its most-watched opening month in league history, averaging 1.32 million viewers for games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, Ion and NBA TV. Moreover, the league had its most-attended opening month in its 26-year history with 400,000 fans at games through the end of May and a rise in sales of WNBA-branded merchandise by 236% year-over-year.

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NBA Finals Game 3 Up 2% on ABC and ESPN

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Graphic for the NBA Finals

Game 3 of the NBA Finals series which saw Boston take a three games to none lead in the series was up 2% from last year’s Game 3. The game averaged 11,426,000 viewers and peaked at 13,926,000 at 10:45 p.m. ET.

The game was the top draw in all of television for the night and took the top spot in all of the key demographics. So far through three games, the series is even with the television numbers from 2023.

NBA Countdown, the show which airs right before the game begins, was also up two percent compared to the same show a year ago. NBA Countdown averaged 4,330,000 viewers. Through three games, the show is up five percent from last season’s pregame shows.

The Celtics will look to secure their 18th NBA Championship when the two teams meet again for Game 4 tonight at 8:30 ET. If a Game 5 is necessary, it would be played on Monday, June 17.

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