Suns and Mercury announce new TV deal, leaving Bally Sports for Gray

Apr 28, 2023, 6:28 AM | Updated: May 1, 2023, 8:17 am

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The Phoenix Suns react on the bench during the final moments of Game Two of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs against the LA Clippers at Footprint Center on April 18, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury announced Friday they have agreed to a five-year television and streaming partnership with Gray Television, departing Bally Sports Arizona regional network.

Gray Television includes KTVK (Arizona’s Family 3TV), KPHO (Arizona’s Family CBS5) and the statewide KPHE (AZ Family Sports Network), which will help the teams reach the Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma media markets. The deal also includes Kiswe, an interactive video company.

The deal is “subject to the approval of the NBA and WNBA and any required resolution with the incumbent regional sports partner,” according to a press release.

The Suns were still under a contract agreement with Diamond Sports, which operates Bally Sports Arizona, through this season.

“The Phoenix Suns breached our contract and violated bankruptcy law, and Diamond Sports Group will pursue all remedies against any parties that attempt to exercise control over our property interests while we reorganize,” Diamond Sports said in a statement. “This is an improper effort by the Suns to change their broadcasting partner without permitting Diamond to exercise our contractual rights.”

Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that Bally has the rights to match any new TV deal.

Suns games had been on Bally Sports Arizona, a Diamond Sports-owned RSN that currently is in bankruptcy protection. Bally Sports Arizona is believed to have back-end rights to the Suns that would allow it to match any offer that the team gets. Sources said that Diamond expects to have the opportunity to match the deal. Specific financials for the Gray Television/Kiswe deal are not known. The Suns deal runs five years; the Mercury is two.

With the new deal, the franchises expect to reach 2.8 million households, tripling the current availability by being available on traditional over-the-air TV as well as streaming.

“I’ve said from day one that our focus is our fans, our community, and every member of our organization and this deal checks every box,” Suns and Mercury governor Mat Ishbia said in a release.

“By going entirely over the air and building our own DTC (direct-to-cunsumer) product, the Suns and Mercury will now be accessible to millions more fans in Arizona and globally. Success comes from new and innovative ways to invest in our players, continue our mission to build a world-class organization on and off the floor and make our product available to as many people as possible.”

Subscribers to a Suns- and Mercury-branded Kiswe app will allow game streaming.

The Suns’ deal will give the team a minimum of 70 non-national exclusive games in the regular season appearing between Arizona’s Family 3TV and AZ Family Sports Network, which launched in March. At least 40 games will air on 3TV, with the remaining on AZ Family Sports Network.

“Cord cutters, cable subscribers, fans with an antenna – everyone will be able to watch Suns and Mercury games on Arizona’s Family,” Ishbia said in a release. “Coupling that with a partnership with an industry leader like Kiswe to provide an innovative digital streaming solution allows us to transform the way fans watch our games, giving them more options and access than they’ve ever had.”

The new agreement comes as the company that owns the Suns’ current regional sports network faces bankruptcy.

Diamond Sports Group, the largest owner of regional sports networks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March. The move came after it missed a $140 million interest payment.

The operator in March first missed its rights fee payments to the Arizona Diamondbacks, reported John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.

Diamond owns 19 networks under the Bally Sports banner, including Bally Sports Arizona, which broadcasts the Suns, D-backs and Arizona Coyotes. Those networks have the rights to 42 professional teams — 14 baseball, 16 NBA and 12 NHL.

Diamond said in a financial filing last fall it had debt of $8.67 billion. The bankruptcy filing was made in the Southern District of Texas.

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