NBA’s Phoenix Suns sign new TV deal after broadcaster bankruptcy

By Dietrich Knauth

(Reuters) – The NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury announced a new television and streaming rights deal for their basketball games on Friday, over the objection of the bankrupt U.S. sports broadcaster that currently televises Suns regular-season games.


The Suns and Mercury in a statement from the teams’ owner said they would deliver all locally broadcast games to television and online streaming through a partnership with Gray Television Inc and video technology startup Kiswe.

The deal would increase the teams’ ability to reach customers who had cut their cable subscriptions, potentially allowing it to reach three times as many fans for each game, Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia said.

“Cord cutters, cable subscribers, fans with an antenna – everyone will be able to watch Suns and Mercury games,” Ishbia said in a statement.

The Phoenix Suns current television broadcast partner Diamond Sports Group said it would oppose the deal.

“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.

U.S. bankruptcy law protects debtors from having their contracts modified or terminated without their consent. Diamond has said it will continue to broadcast all games under its existing contracts and make all required payments to NBA teams during its bankruptcy.

Diamond, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, televises games for nearly half of all teams in the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Hockey League under the Bally Sports brand.

Diamond filed for Chapter 11 protection in March with a proposal to cut $8 billion in debt.

It focused its objection on the Suns’ contract, but Diamond also broadcasts Mercury games, which will feature Brittney Griner, who has rejoined the team after her recent release from Russia in a prisoner swap with the U.S.

Diamond said at the start of its bankruptcy that it had good relationships with the NBA and its teams, pointing to MLB as the primary obstacle to its effort to pivot to streaming games online.

The Suns and Mercury did not disclose financial terms of the new broadcast deal or the terms of the current Diamond Sports contract.

Gray Television said the new deal would enable it to broadcast at least 70 regular-season games in future seasons.

(Reporting by Dietrich Knauth; Editing by Bill Berkrot)