Suns & Mercury ditch cable for streaming
03 May 2023
The low-down 🚨
The Phoenix Suns and Mercury announced this week they would partner with Gray Television to stream their games for free, ending their relationship with Bally Sports Arizona. This new deal will enable fans in nearly 2 million homes to watch Suns and Mercury games, with the deal starting from the upcoming WNBA season.
This is a big blow for Bally Sports’ parent company, Diamond Sports, who filed for bankruptcy in March amid a stricken landscape for regional sports networks (RSNs) who are losing the war against streaming.
Our take 🔥
Aaand there is another hit for Bally Sports and RSNs, safe to say their future looks bleak.
This deal is a win for Suns and Mercury fans, and anything that can allow fans to watch the teams they love is a success in our minds, but this deal also represents the bigger shift in viewing habits. It does help that their new (and very wealthy owner) Matt Ishbia is willing to forego millions now, in an attempt to increase their fan base in the long term.
As Ishbia said earlier this year, “The media world is changing. … We’re going to be the leaders starting off with a new way of thinking about it.”
The introduction of streaming gives consumers all the power, allowing them to pick and choose how, when, and where they watch their team. With RSNs tied to cable packages, it significantly limits their flexibility, and a turn to streaming is an investment they might not be able to afford.
Bring in bespoke league platforms like NBA League Pass and deals with streaming heavyweights such as Amazon Prime (who now exclusively host Thursday Night Football), and consumers have all the choice in the world.
Bally Sports are making moves to futureproof their business with the launch of Bally Sports+ in some markets last year. Offering the ability to watch local coverage of NBA, NHL, MLB, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), college football and high school sports without the need for a cable subscription.
The new model is experiencing growing pains, some MLB teams haven’t signed up, impacting viewers and diminishing their potential subscriber base. Bally Sports+ could be the light at the end of the tunnel, but its success will be determined by whether new deals can be brokered, however it looks like they’ll be playing catchup.