The Phoenix Suns and Mercury are being sued by the Diamond Sports Group over the teams’ decision to sign media rights deals with Gray Television and Kiswe.
When the deals were announced last week, Diamond announced they would sue and claimed it had an option to match.
Here’s what Diamond said in the suit, per The Athletic.
“The Suns’ failure to comply with their contractual duties, and Diamond Arizona’s potential loss of approximately 70 games of NBA content provided by the Suns each season, puts Diamond Arizona’s business at significant peril, thereby directly threatening its ability to reorganize,” Diamond wrote in the emergency motion for a stay. “The Suns’ deliberate disregard of its contractual duties to Diamond Arizona is specifically the type of action the automatic stay is meant to protect against.”
Diamond is claiming the company’s contract with the Suns includes a right of first refusal clause, though the details were redacted in the court filings.
Without knowing the details of the clause or the specifics of the team’s contracts with both Diamond and Gray/Kiswe, it’s tough to provide actual analysis here. However, Diamond clearly isn’t willing to let the Suns go without a fight, especially given the issues surrounding the company’s relationship with the Diamondbacks earlier this year.
If the company does indeed lose the Suns and Mercury to the Gray/Kiswe partnership, and its relationship with the Diamondbacks cannot be mended, Diamond’s lone major league team in the Arizona market would be the perennially rebuilding Coyotes, who had the NHL’s second lowest local rating among US teams for the 2021-22 season (data for 2022-23 hasn’t been reported quite yet). That wouldn’t be an ideal outcome for Bally Sports Arizona, and likely wouldn’t drive a positive carriage trend among operators in the region.
One of the reasons Diamond is probably pushing so hard with the Suns is that the team, like all NBA teams whose rights are controlled by Diamond, can be watched through the Bally Sports+ direct-to-consumer service. The company is heavily counting on Bally Sports+ to help boost revenue and stem the losses resulting from cord cutting, and losing a successful team in a large market like Phoenix would not help.