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December 9, 2023

As A New NBA Season Starts Teams Have New Ways To Distribute Local Games

As A New NBA Season Starts Teams Have New Ways To Distribute Local Games

With AT&T SportsNet shutting down, for the 2023-24 season the Utah Jazz are launching a team owned … [+] subscription based direct-to-consumer streaming service, Jazz+. Games will also be available for free on local broadcast station WJZZ-TV. Pictured Utah Jazz point guard Collin Sexton. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

With the business model of Regional Sports Networks collapsing, last month the Utah Jazz became another NBA team announcing an alternative source for fans to watch games locally. Last week the team announced the launch of Jazz+, a subscription based direct-to-consumer streaming service. Previously, Jazz games had been distributed via AT&T SportNet. Earlier this year Warner Bros. Discovery
had announced they were shutting down the RSN citing it was no longer profitable. It’s been reported the Jazz were making $20 million a year from the RSN. In addition, Jazz games will also be available for free on WJZZ, a local broadcast station.

At an annual cost of $125.50, Jazz fans residing in all of Utah and parts of Idaho and Wyoming will have access to live games, as well as other on-demand content. A monthly subscription will cost $15.50 and to purchase an individual game will cost $5.00. The games will be streamed in both English and Spanish. Besides live Jazz games, Jazz+ subscribers will have access to full-length replays of games as well as exclusive access to original content, behind-the scenes footage, highlights and alternative broadcast feeds.

Jazz+ will be available on a number of apps including Android, Apple
, Roku, and Samsung. More than 3.3 million people across the geographic footprint will be able to subscribe to Jazz+. The Athletic reports the team is also looking to expand to other markets such as Montana, bypassing the league’s own national streaming service, NBA League Pass. This move would require the NBA’s approval. Moreover, Jazz+ will be available to subscribers who have left the geographic area and remain in the United States for up to 30 days.

Jazz+ is a subsidiary of the Smith Entertainment Group (SEG Media), named after the majority owner of the team Ryan Smith. SEG Media was launched last June. In August the SEG Media announced an agreement with Kiswe, a company known for their interactive capabilities, to help in the roll-out of the Jazz+ platform.

Last June the Jazz announced that Jazz games can be watched locally for free on KJZZ-TV. With only an antenna, viewers will be able to watch Jazz games not televised nationally on the local broadcast station. KJZZ-TV is owned by Sinclair, ironically the parent company of the financially struggling RSN Bally Sports. Jazz games on cable/satellite providers carrying KJZZ-TV will also have access.

In a statement, Jazz president Chris Olson noted, “We’ve got a great new broadcast partner situation where we’re over the air free to 100% of the state of Utah, but we also realize that not everybody’s sitting at home every game night able to watch the game on their TV. And so streaming is a huge part of that. And so, we set out very early on to create a streaming service that we control, that we brand, it’s us. It’s not a third party. It’s not someone else that has ulterior motives. We want a streaming service that is directly us to our customer.”

These announcements coincide with the Jazz celebrating their 50th NBA season. The franchise began play in the 1974-75 season as the New Orleans Jazz. The team relocated to Salt Lake City for the 1979-80 season. Utah’s first game of the 2023-24 season will be on October 25 when they host the Sacramento Kings.

The Jazz will be the second NBA franchise using a new streaming/broadcast TV distribution model for the 2023-24 season. Last July, the Phoenix Suns, in a five-year agreement, announced, its games will be broadcast locally across Arizona on three Grey Television owned stations; KTVK, KPHA and KPHE. Suns games will also be as well accessible on Kiswe’s streaming service. Previously, Suns games had been televised on Bally Sports Arizona an RSN, which had failed to make an offer to continue local coverage.

Not every NBA squad that had AT&T SportsNet however, is dropping the RSN model. In time for the 2023-24 season, last week the Houston Rockets, in a joint venture with MLB’s Houston Astros, announced they have acquired AT&T SportsNet Southwest and renamed it Space City Home Network. The first game on the RSN will be a Rockets preseason game on October 10.

In the NHL, the Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights will also begin the 2023-24 season later this month, with a new and hybrid distribution model. In a multi-year agreement, the Golden Knights will stream local games on ViewLift and on broadcast TV for free on the Scripps Sports owned local station KMCC-TV. Previously, games had been televised locally on AT&T SportsNet.

Also, in late August, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, which had televised Pittsburgh Penguins games, was sold to the Boston-based Fenway Sports Group. The RSN has since been renamed SportsNet Pittsburgh. The Fenway Sports Group has controlling ownership of the Penguins (and Boston Red Sox) as well as NESN, the RSN televising Boston Bruins and Red Sox games (and its streaming partner NESN 360). The 2023-24 NHL season starts on October 7.

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