While the local broadcast market has swung in uncertainty across the country over the past few months, with one major regional sports network syndicate going bankrupt and another leaving the business entirely, the Utah Jazz sought a new way to distribute their games. Where the franchise has arrived is not only what team owner Ryan Smith calls “a whole new paradigm” for broadcasting games across the NBA, but it may also be a sign of what’s to come for others across the league.
The Jazz will broadcast all of its non-national TV exclusive games in two locations next season, on free-to-air television locally on KJZZ and online with a new live-to-consumer broadcast for its fans, in an effort to reach as many viewers as possible. It’s a definite shift from the television model that NBA teams have favored for years, with cable dollars being traded to maximize the households it can reach.
“If you had bunny ears on your TV,” Smith said, the athlete In an interview, “You can have jazz games.”
Jazz had aired on AT&T SportsNet in previous seasons, but the network was owned by Warner Bros. Television. Discovery, which pulled out of the RSN industry this spring. The team’s deal with AT&T SportsNet was set to expire at the end of the 2022-23 season, and it was already seeking a new home for television.
Now she will try to expand her audience as widely as possible. The franchise has launched a new media division, SEG Media, within the Smith Entertainment Group and will produce Jazz games, along with other content it says will be exclusive to the new team and broadcasters. The games will air on KJZZ, channel 14 on the dial locally. Salt Lake City’s CBS affiliate KUTV-2 will have the rights to air the Jazz games and content, though the majority of the games will air on KJZZ; Both channels are owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. SEG Media will produce the games—to bring Craig Bolerjack, Thurl Bailey, and Holly Rowe back on air—and sell the ads for them.
The new direct-to-consumer product, which is still unnamed, will allow fans to access games through the team’s website and app. It will be available with a paid subscription across the state and within 150 miles of Salt Lake City – your local jazz market. Smith said the Jazz would also push to allow their games to be streamed in overseas markets as well, though this remains ambitious and not yet certain and could conflict with NBA League Pass, as the league sells access outside of it. Market games.
Smith was intent on increasing access to the Jazz Games. He said only 39 percent of households in Utah could watch the games when he bought the team in 2020, but he thinks this new method could lead to a five- to seven-fold increase in viewership.
The transition to live broadcasting at home and away from RSN cable would likely come with lower revenues for the franchise. Although increasingly unreliable, these regional sports networks provided significant revenue for the teams. But RSN stumbled across the country in 2023. Diamond Sports Group, which owns the rights to 16 NBA teams, filed for bankruptcy in February. It also gave up the rights to the San Diego Padres and stopped paying four other teams.
Smith described the change as a step back and a step forward for the franchise as his sports group tends to produce and sell advertising to make up for lost income.
cWould you wake up and look at yourself and your fans in the mirror if you had a viewership rating of 39 percent? Smith said. He added, “We’re going to have to get creative and be pessimistic about revenue generation… We know we’re having short-term success, but that’s the direction we’re headed in.” And I think if we look back five years from now, everyone will say that what Utah did was actually incredible.”
It may be a harbinger of how NBA teams will approach local broadcasts and part of the changing tides in the NBA’s broader media ecosystem. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in March that he expected teams to adopt a hybrid broadcast approach. The Phoenix Suns announced in April that the franchise would leave Diamond Sports-owned RSN for its own free-to-air television network and DTC option, though that was suspended in a legal dispute between the Suns and Diamond Sports. (The Jazz says the franchise has secured all necessary approvals from the NBA to move forward with their plan.)
The Clippers aired their games on their own DTC product, ClipperVision, last season, priced at $199 this year, while also having games air on local RSN. MSG Networks, home of the New York Knicks, and YES Network that broadcasts the Nets have announced their direct-to-consumer apps to give fans another choice in how to watch games.
Smith said there is no price yet for a digital subscription to see Jazz. MSG+ will get you monthly ($29.99), annual ($309.99) and game ($9.99) tickets, while airing five professional teams in total. The YES Network also streams Yankees and Liberty games and charges $24.99 per month and $239.99 per year. Some fans initially made these costs.
These networks were operating under a model in which they could not undercut their own cable networks, Smith said, and had to set prices accordingly. Smith notes that Jazz does not have to worry about these considerations. However, he adds, there are costs of their own to consider, including standing in the DTC process, and the price will try to balance affordability without lowering NBA League Pass rates. Jazz may consider adding sweeteners, such as tickets or gift bags, to attract or make subscriptions more attractive.
“This does not mean that we will not get similar prices,” he said. But the reason things happen this way is because of the agreements with the broader contracts. We need to thread that needle.”
If that works well for Jazz, Smith said he could expand the DTC model to other parts of his sports empire. He has an ownership interest in Real Salt Lake and the Utah Royals, an NWSL team coming in 2024, and owns the Jazz’s G League team. he is too He wants to bring in an NHL team to his state.
First, however, Smith focuses on making jazz as widely seen as possible. He believes the team is well positioned, unencumbered by any RSN deal sitting in a financial purgatory, to build on its own.
(Photo by Jazz Bear in Utah: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”