One team affected by Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to get out of the RSN business is the Utah Jazz, whose games air on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. However, WBD’s decision won’t have a long-term impact on the Jazz – their media rights agreement ends after the current season.
Regardless of whether or not WBD was getting out of the RSN business, the Jazz would have needed to strike a new media rights deal with an entity in the coming months.
Because of that, the Jazz were already scoping out possible plans for their future. Per The Athletic, the Jazz are looking at combining both the linear TV model with a direct to consumer service. Chief communications officer Caroline Klein said the team doesn’t want to alienate any of its viewers, which it could have if it went all linear or all DTC.
The Jazz intends to have a hybrid approach next season. The team wants to marry a broadcast on TV and a direct-to-consumer option to reach fans who prefer one or the other. If the Jazz went only to a direct-to-consumer broadcast, Klein said, the team would alienate a majority of its viewers, who still want to watch games on linear TV.
“We’ve been exploring those over the past few months,” Klein said. “We’re very conscious of the way fans want to consume games having rapidly evolved and we’re looking at things that are different than the traditional RSN model.
“And really just speak to what our fans want for the ’23-24 season that speak to some of the things we identified as priorities at the beginning of the season, in terms of distribution and fan experience. And the ability for that direct-to-consumer streaming option.”
Last summer, the Jazz tweeted that they “have opened negotiations for a broadcast & streaming partner” for the 2023-24 season and beyond. At the time, linear TV, bundled streaming, and pay-per-view streaming were mentioned as the Jazz’s ultimate goal for their broadcast. The team also produces its own broadcasts, which seems like a strong selling point for possible media partners.
If you wanted to consider what a new media rights agreement for the Jazz could look like, the LA Clippers might be a good comparison. The Clippers re-upped with Bally Sports last year, with games airing on Bally Sports SoCal, and launched their own streaming service called ClipperVision. It includes all of the team’s games on Bally Sports SoCal and KTLA, along with Korean and Spanish broadcasts and an alternate BallerVision broadcast.
I think the Jazz could do something similar. But without a reasonable RSN landing point (Altitude seems like the most reasonable option), this could be an opportunity for Scripps to make a splash with its newly-launched Scripps Sports division. The company owns affiliates of both Fox and Ion in Salt Lake City, and that might be the softest landing point for Jazz games on linear TV.