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 they “have opened negotiations for a broadcast & streaming partner,” which would take effect next season.
Creating great fan experiences—in person and online—is our #1 priority. We are committed to providing enhanced viewing options to watch Utah Jazz games and have opened negotiations for a broadcast & streaming partner that would begin in the 23/24 season.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) August 17, 2022
Jazz games currently air 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 offer 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 for enhancing the access our fans will have to Jazz games in future seasons,” Jim Olson, president of the Jazz, said in a statement sent to reporters. “We’re excited about the productive discussions we have initiated with a variety of providers, and are looking forward to solidifying the best, future partnership for our organization and fans.”
The Tribune also notes that the team’s 12-year, $240 million contract with the RSN expired back in 2021, but they’ve been locked in for longer through an exclusive negotiating window.
As for potential options, pay-per-view streaming is on the table, in addition to the standard TV and streaming bundles.
In negotiating a new deal, the franchise’s goals are to make Jazz games available to fans through three different pathways: traditional TV packages, options for bundled streaming packages, and, intriguingly, pay-per-view streaming.
That model could work like ticket sales at Vivint Arena: fans could buy the ability to watch just one game, or a full or half-season package. Even more flexible packages, like a “weekend” package or packages against certain opponents could also be options.
I’d imagine the Jazz are looking very closely at the early results from Bally Sports+ as well as the NBA’s experiments with microtransactions related to parts of games.
The team apparently has received plenty of interest, and the team’s production being done in house can only help.
There’s no timeframe for a deal, but a Jazz official said that the phone has been “ringing both ways” from a number of potential partners who have shown interest in a deal moving forward that would meet both traditional and streaming fans. That the Jazz produce their own games — employing directors, producers, and broadcast talent — removes one barrier to entry for those who want to manage the Jazz’s broadcasting packages. It’s also possible that the Jazz could work with one partner for traditional TV, and another for streaming.
This is a tough situation for the Jazz. They’re the only pro team in Utah, so a new, more traditional RSN being 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. Re-upping with AT&T doesn’t solve the carriage issues that are frustrating the fans. Getting the right solution is quite difficult, much as we saw earlier this summer when the New Orleans Pelicans renewed their deal with Bally Sports to much dismay from the fanbase.
If AT&T SportsNet had a possible direct to consumer option on the table, like Bally does with Bally Sports+, maybe that would make the situation far easier to swallow for the Jazz. But, as far as we can tell, that isn’t happening, and the overall level of uncertainty surrounding the AT&T Sports RSNs isn’t helping matters at all.