This is an important article about the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, the newly-minted Stanley Cup champions, and what they’re doing about televising their games next season.
I commend you all to read it, but here’s the gist:
And next season, when fans want to watch the reigning champs on TV, they’ll be able to do it for free as part of a new TV deal with Scripps Sports which includes over-the-air broadcasting in addition to be included in pay-TV bundles.
Vegas spoke with “at least a handful” of potential TV providers. Scripps Sports stood out for a couple reasons according to Bubolz, economics were important, but creating a wider distribution really set Scripps apart from some other potential partners.
The Golden Knights TV market contains Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and a small portion of eastern California.
This is exactly what the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury attempted to set up in that market, only to be stopped (for now) by a lawsuit. That suit was filed on behalf of Diamond Sports Group.
Oh. Right. You know, the company that’s likely to go out of business after going into way too much debt to buy what are now the Bally Sports Group regional sports networks. The details of that suit aren’t important for the purposes of this article.
What is important — and directly related to baseball broadcasting — is that the Golden Knights are going to be able to do this because their games were carried by AT&T Sports Rocky Mountain. The AT&T RSNs are probably going to go dark soon, because Warner/Discovery, which now owns those RSNs, has stated they want out of the sports broadcasting business.
That will affect games for the Rockies — which are on the very same RSN that carries Golden Knights games — as well as the Astros and Pirates. You can read more about that here.
The bottom line — and it’s way too early to say this definitively — is that deals like the one the Golden Knights are making could be the future of baseball broadcasting. They’ll almost have to be for teams that are under the Bally Sports umbrella, because those RSNs have already missed payments for some baseball teams, including the Padres (who are now having games produced by MLB) and potentially the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Twins and Guardians (although this USA Today article indicates that those teams are having their rights fees paid, at least at this time). There are several other teams whose games are on Bally RSNs that will eventually get to that point, including the Cubs’ division rivals in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.
Commissioner Rob Manfred hinted at his Cactus League news conference that eventually Major League Baseball could wind up taking over broadcast rights for several of these teams, and as noted above, have already done so with the Padres. Padres games are being streamed and also carried by cable channels in the local market. But they could also go the way the Golden Knights are, and sign deals with over-the-air broadcast channels, presuming there are enough such channels in baseball markets that want to pay rights fees.
The fact that the Golden Knights have done this in the Vegas market hints that the Las Vegas A’s (assuming they become that soon) could sign a similar rights deal. Of course, the Golden Knights are riding the peak of their popularity with the recent Stanley Cup victory. The A’s are... kind of bottoming out right now.
The sports broadcasting landscape is changing rapidly. Within a couple of years the RSN bubble, which is popping, might be completely gone, although Marquee Sports Network, which carries Cubs games, doesn’t appear to be in this situation at this time, partly because they are part-owned by the team. Similarly, other RSNs that are part-owned by their MLB team, the YES Network (Yankees), SNY (Mets), NESN (Red Sox) and SportsNetLA (Dodgers) are likely going to be able to weather this storm.
As they say in the biz, “Stay tuned.” Or as we say here, “As always, we await developments.”