It’s not often you see a professional sports team take to social media and announce they’re looking for a new broadcast partner, but that’s exactly what the Utah Jazz did on Wednesday.
The team tweeted that it “has opened negotiations for a broadcast and streaming partner”, which will take effect next season.
Creating great fan experiences, in-person and online, is our #1 priority. We are committed to providing enhanced viewing options for watching Utah Jazz games and have opened negotiations for a broadcast and streaming partner beginning in the 23/24 season.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) August 17, 2022
Jazz matches are currently airing on AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain. The network, like many RSNs across the country these days, is not widely available.
FuboTV and DirecTV Stream are the only streaming options for fans, while the only cable or satellite operators to carry the network are Xfinity and DirecTV.
For the 22/23 season, fans have the following four options: pic.twitter.com/RvVe818Kq8
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) August 17, 2022
The Salt Lake Tribune had some interesting details, including this statement from team president Jim Olson.
“Opening contract negotiations with potential broadcast and streaming partners allows us to explore options to improve our fans’ access to Jazz games in future seasons,” said Jazz President Jim Olson. , in a statement sent to reporters. “We are excited about the productive discussions we have initiated with a variety of vendors, and we look forward to solidifying the best future partnership for our organization and our fans.”
The Tribune also notes that the team’s 12-year, $240 million contract with RSN expired in 2021, but they’ve been locked in longer thanks to an exclusive negotiation window.
As for potential options, pay-per-view streaming is on the table, in addition to standard TV and streaming packages.
In negotiating a new deal, the franchise’s goals are to make Jazz games available to fans through three different avenues: traditional TV packages, bundled streaming package options, and, oddly enough, pay-per-view streaming.
This model could work like ticket sales at Vivint Arena: fans could buy the option to watch a single game, or a full or half-season package. Even more flexible packages, such as a “weekend” package or packages against certain opponents could also be options.
I imagine the Jazz are watching the early results of Bally Sports+ very closely as well as the NBA’s experiments with microtransactions related to game play.
The team has apparently generated a lot of interest, and the team’s in-house production can only help.
There is no time frame for a deal, but a Jazz official said the phone has been “ringing back and forth” from a number of potential partners who have expressed interest in a deal ranging from before and which would meet both mainstream fans and streaming fans alike. The fact that the Jazz produces its own games – employing directors, producers and broadcast talent – removes a barrier to entry for those wishing to manage the Jazz’s broadcast packages. It is also possible that the Jazz will work with a partner for traditional television and another for streaming.
It’s a difficult situation for the Jazz. It’s Utah’s only professional team, so a new, more traditional RSN launched in partnership with a company like NBC or Sinclair probably isn’t feasible. Going with a streaming-only plan would alienate customers who still pay for cable or satellite and watch the team that way. The takeover with AT&T does not resolve the transportation issues that frustrate fans. Finding the right fit is tough enough, as we saw earlier this summer when the New Orleans Pelicans renewed their deal with Bally Sports much to the dismay of the fanbase.
If AT&T SportsNet had a possible direct-to-consumer option on the table, like Bally is doing with Bally Sports+, it might just make the situation much easier for the Jazz to swallow. But, as far as we can tell, that’s not happening, and the overall level of uncertainty surrounding AT&T Sports’ RSNs isn’t helping one bit.
[Salt Lake Tribune]