Bally Sports Arizona
TypeRegional sports network
CountryUnited States
Broadcast area
NetworkBally Sports
HeadquartersPhoenix, Arizona
Programming
Language(s)English
Picture format
Ownership
OwnerSinclair Broadcast Group and Entertainment Studios
ParentDiamond Sports Group
History
LaunchedSeptember 7, 1996 (1996-09-07)
ClosedOctober 21, 2023 (2023-10-21)
Former names
  • FOX Sports Arizona (1996–1999, 2008–2021)
  • FOX Sports Net Arizona (1999–2004)
  • FSN Arizona (2004–2008)

Bally Sports Arizona (BSAZ) was an American regional sports network (RSN). The channel broadcast professional, collegiate and high school sports events, with a primary focus on Phoenix-area teams. It was available on most cable providers throughout Arizona and available nationwide on satellite provider DirecTV.

The network was launched as Fox Sports Arizona on September 7, 1996, through a partnership between News Corporation and Liberty Media. It was the first regional sports network branded as Fox Sports after the creation of Fox Sports Net from what had been the Prime Network group of RSNs. Fox Sports Arizona was the cable television home of the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League when they began play that October and of the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball when that team began play in 1998. In addition, Fox Sports Arizona carried college sports as well as Arizona high school sports. The Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association moved their cable games to the network in 2003 after 22 years of association with Cox Communications and its predecessors and their RSN, the Arizona Sports and Programming Network (later renamed Cox Sports, Cox 9, Cox 7, and YurView Arizona).

On March 31, 2021, the network was rebranded Bally Sports Arizona after the network was purchased by Diamond Sports Group, a joint venture between the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Entertainment Studios. Diamond filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2023. The Arizona RSN lost money for Bally, which opted to drop all three professional teams. Under new Suns and Phoenix Mercury team owner Mat Ishbia, both the Suns and Mercury signed a deal to move their games to broadcast stations owned by Gray Television on April 20, 2023.[1] While this deal was stayed by a bankruptcy judge for the Suns (the Mercury were unaffected by the judge's ruling[2]), Bally ultimately cut ties with the Suns after failing to match Gray's offer on July 14.[3] On July 18, Major League Baseball took over production and distribution of telecasts for the Diamondbacks after Diamond missed a second payment for the Diamondbacks during the 2023 season.[4] On October 4, Bally Sports cut ties with the Coyotes;[5] the team signed a deal with Scripps Sports a day later, ahead of the start of the 2023–24 season.[6]

Bally Sports Arizona signed off for the final time on October 21, 2023.

History

On March 21, 1996, two new teams in the market, the expansion team the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball and the relocating original Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League (to become known as the Arizona Coyotes) announced 10 year deals with Fox/Liberty Sports. The partnership between News Corporation and Liberty Media had been formed several months earlier.[7] The name for the new network was to have been Prime Sports Arizona, but following the announcement to rebrand Liberty's Prime Sports Networks and form Fox Sports Net, the name was changed to Fox Sports Arizona (FSAZ).[8][9] The network would be the first to use the new Fox Sports name.

Fox Sports Arizona was launched on September 7, 1996, with the first game on the network being Arizona State University's 45–42 win over its Pac-10 rival, Washington.[10][11] The first Coyotes game was broadcast on October 18, and the Diamondbacks would join the network a year and a half later for their inaugural 1998 season.[10] The network also televised high school football and basketball state championships.[11] In 2003, Fox Sports Arizona acquired rights to the Phoenix Suns, which had been televised by Cox Communications on its sports network since 1981.[12]

Fox Sports Arizona logo, used from 2008 to 2012.
Former Fox Sports Arizona logo, used from 2012 to 2021

On December 14, 2017, as part of a merger between both companies, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to acquire all 22 regional Fox Sports networks from 21st Century Fox, including Fox Sports Arizona. However, on June 27, 2018, the Justice Department ordered their divestment under antitrust grounds, citing Disney's ownership of ESPN. On May 3, 2019, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Entertainment Studios (through their joint venture, Diamond Sports Group) bought the Fox Sports Networks from The Walt Disney Company for $10.6 billion. The deal closed on August 22, 2019.[13][14] On March 31, 2021, coinciding with the start of the 2021 Major League Baseball season, Fox Sports Arizona was rebranded as Bally Sports Arizona, as part of a branding agreement with commercial casino operator Bally's Corporation.[15][16]

On October 13, 2023, after losing the rights to Suns, Diamondbacks and Coyotes, Bally Sports Arizona posted on social media that it no longer held the rights to any local professional teams and would begin to wind down with the natural expiration of its carriage agreements.[17]

Bankruptcy

Further information: Diamond Sports Group § Bankruptcy

On February 15, 2023, Diamond Sports Group, the owner of Bally Sports Arizona, failed to make a $140 million interest payment, instead opting for a 30-day grace period to make the payment.[18] On March 14, 2023, Diamond Sports Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.[19]

During its bankruptcy, Diamond has missed a payment to the Arizona Diamondbacks.[20] On April 5, 2023, the Diamondbacks filed an emergency motion asking the bankruptcy judge to order Diamond to pay the Diamondbacks fully or give its media rights back to Major League Baseball. Diamond argued that because of cord-cutting the contract rate for the media rights of the teams was too high. A hearing on the matter was set for May 31, 2023.[21] As an interim, on April 19, the bankruptcy judge ordered Diamond Sports to pay 50% of what the Diamondbacks were owed.[22] On June 1, 2023, after a two day long hearing, the bankruptcy judge ordered Diamond to pay the Diamondbacks fully within five days.[23]

On April 28, 2023, the Phoenix Suns announced that it had signed an agreement with Gray Television to put its regional games on broadcast television, under a five-year agreement for the Suns and a two-year agreement for the Phoenix Mercury, replacing Bally Sports Arizona for their upcoming seasons.[24] Diamond subsequently accused the team of breaching its contract and bankruptcy law.[24] On May 10, 2023, the bankruptcy judge voided the Suns contract with Gray, ruling that the Suns violated Bally Sports Arizona's contractual right of first refusal. He ordered the parties into arbitration. The Phoenix Mercury's deal was not affected by the ruling, meaning they were allowed to air games onto KTVK and KPHE-LD for their 2023 season.[25] On July 14, the Suns announced that the Gray deal would go ahead, as Diamond Sports Group declined to match the contract.[26] Regular season games that aren't nationally aired will be broadcast by 3TV, the Arizona's Family Sports channel brand throughout the state of Arizona, and KOLD-TV in the Tucson region only.

On June 22, 2023, Diamond Sports announced its intention to reject Bally Sports Arizona's contract with the Diamondbacks on June 30, 2023.[27] On July 18, 2023, Diamond was granted a motion to decline its contract with the team. Major League Baseball subsequently took over production and distribution of Diamondbacks telecasts (not unlike its takeover of a fellow Bally Sports property, the San Diego Padres, in May).[28] During the rest of the Diamondbacks' 2023 regular season period, their games were aired on local cable providers alongside YurView Arizona for those that had Cox Communications in the Phoenix and Tucson regions.

On October 4, 2023, Diamond Sports announced its intention to reject Bally Sports Arizona's contract with the Coyotes, with the Coyotes signing a new contract with Scripps Sports the next day.[29] Under the Scripps Sports umbrella, the Coyotes will air regular season games throughout both the states of Arizona and Utah. This move meant that Bally Sports Arizona no longer held the broadcast rights to any professional sports teams.[30]

On October 21, Bally Sports Arizona signed off for the last time, stating on-screen: “No Longer In Operation. Thank you for your loyal viewership over the years. Please check your local listings to access your favorite Arizona teams.” The shutdown of the network leaves the Phoenix metropolitan area without a regional sports network for the first time since 1996, and becomes, to date, the only large United States market without one.[31][32]

Former rights

Bally Sports Arizona held the broadcast rights to three of the four major professional sports franchises in the Phoenix area, the Phoenix Suns of the NBA, the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball, and the Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League.

Fox Sports Arizona formerly held the broadcast rights to select Arizona Wildcats sporting events from its inception until the spring of 2009; the University of Arizona shifted these event telecasts to the Arizona Wildcats Sports Network, beginning in August 2009, which were simulcast on FSA from 2010 until 2012, upon the launch of the Pac-12 Network and its dedicated "Pac-12 Arizona" subfeed network devoted to Arizona and Arizona State University sports.

Other services

Bally Sports Arizona Extra

Fox Sports Arizona launched an alternate feed, Fox Sports Arizona Plus, on April 25, 2008. Created as an overflow active only during instances in which a sporting event that Fox Sports Arizona holds rights to overlaps with another game being broadcast on the primary channel, it was established to resolve scheduling conflicts involving Game 3 of the first round matchup between the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs during the 2008 NBA Playoffs and a scheduled Arizona Diamondbacks regular season game on that date. It was available on most cable providers, and otherwise aired national Bally Sports content when not needed.

The Bally Sports Arizona Extra brand name was first in use on an additional overflow channel that was used for at least three Diamondbacks games.[33][34]

In the Southern Arizona region only, including Tucson, Bally Sports Arizona Extra aired San Diego Padres games and related programming produced by its sister-network Bally Sports San Diego to select cable providers in that region until MLB took over that team’s broadcast rights.[35]

Former on-air staff

References

  1. ^ Brown, Brandon (April 20, 2023). "Q&A: Suns' new CEO wants to capitalize on NBA Playoffs, land big concerts and shore up TV broadcasts". Phoenix Business Journal. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  2. ^ Kaplan, Daniel (May 10, 2023). "Judge voids Suns' media deal with Gray TV amid Diamond Sports bankruptcy proceedings". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  3. ^ Novak, Chris (July 14, 2023). "Phoenix Suns strike deal with Gray Television". Awful Announcing. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  4. ^ Alden Gonzalez (July 18, 2023). "MLB taking over broadcasts of Arizona Diamondbacks games". ESPN. ESPN Inc.
  5. ^ Frankel, Daniel (October 4, 2023). "Diamond Ditches the NHL's Coyotes, Pulls Plug on Bally Sports Arizona". Yahoo Entertainment. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  6. ^ "Coyotes Finalize TV Deal with Scripps Sports". The Hockey News. Retrieved 2023-10-21.
  7. ^ "Fox and Liberty Outline Plans for New Cable Venture". Sports Business Journal. November 1, 1995. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  8. ^ Tyers, Tim (July 4, 1996). "NBC puts Roy on spot at Olympics". Arizona Republic. p. D2. Retrieved October 13, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ R. Thomas Umstead (July 8, 1996). "Liberty Sports regionals will become Fox Sports net". Multichannel News. The Walt Disney Company. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "FOX Sports Arizona celebrates its 20th anniversary". FOX Sports. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  11. ^ a b Gintonio, Jim (July 23, 1998). "Network beginning auspicious". Arizona Republic. p. C7. Retrieved October 13, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "Fox Sports Net Arizona & Phoenix Suns Announce Multi-Year Telecast Deal". Phoenix Suns. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Sinclair completes acquisition of regional sports networks from Disney". Bloomberg. 22 August 2019. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  14. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (3 May 2019). "Sinclair Clinches Disney-Regional Sports Networks Deal, Byron Allen Joins as Partner". Variety. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  15. ^ "Bally Sports, Coming March 31". YouTube (Fox Sports Midwest). March 17, 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  16. ^ Novy-Williams, Eben (2020-11-19). "Bally's Buys Sinclair RSN Naming Rights As Part of Sports Betting Push". Sportico.com. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  17. ^ "Financially troubled Bally Sports Arizona will no longer provide coverage of local teams". 12news.com. 2023-10-13. Retrieved 2023-10-14.
  18. ^ Ourand, John (15 February 2023). "Diamond Sports Group not making $140M interest payment". Sports Business Journal. Leaders Group. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  19. ^ Hayes, Dade (2023-03-15). "Diamond Sports Group, Owner Of Bally Networks Once Run By Fox, Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy". Deadline. Retrieved 2023-05-05.
  20. ^ Coffey, Brendan (March 14, 2023). "DIAMOND SPORTS FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY; DIAMONDBACKS OWED $30 MILLION". Sportico. Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  21. ^ Kaplan, Daniel (April 5, 2023). "MLB files emergency motion in Diamond Sports bankruptcy for Twins, Guardians payments; D-Backs file own motion". The Athletic. New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
  22. ^ McCann, Michael; Crupi, Anthony (April 20, 2023). "Diamond RSNs Must Pay 50% To 4 MLB Teams In Bankruptcy Case, For Now". Sportico. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  23. ^ Gonzalez, Aiden (June 1, 2023). "Diamond Sports Group ordered to fully pay MLB teams' contracts". ESPN. Walt Disney Corporation. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  24. ^ a b Rankin, Duane (April 28, 2023). "Diamond Sports Group accuses Phoenix Suns of breach of contract in leaving Bally Sports Arizona". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  25. ^ Kaplan, Daniel (May 10, 2023). "Judge voids Suns' media deal with Gray TV amid Diamond Sports bankruptcy proceedings". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved May 30, 2023.
  26. ^ Ourand, John (2023-07-14). "Gray Television wins Suns, Mercury media rights". www.sportsbusinessjournal.com. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  27. ^ Frankel, Daniel (June 22, 2023). "Bankrupt Diamond Moves To Cut the MLB's Diamondbacks Loose From Bally Sports Arizona". Next TV. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  28. ^ Mackie, Theo (July 18, 2023). "Diamondbacks games no longer to be carried on Bally Sports; MLB moving them to new outlets". AzCentral. Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  29. ^ "ABC15 and Scripps Sports become official broadcast partner of the Arizona Coyotes". KNXV-TV. October 5, 2023. Retrieved October 5, 2023.
  30. ^ "Bally Sports Arizona asks out of agreement to broadcast Coyotes games". Arizona Sports. October 5, 2023. Retrieved October 5, 2023.
  31. ^ Joe Lucia (October 13, 2023). "Bally Sports Arizona shuts down with terse tweet". Awful Announcing.
  32. ^ Eric Fisher (October 16, 2023). "Arizona RSN Shutdown Ushers in New Era of Local Sports Consumption". Front Office Sports.
  33. ^ "Bally Sports Arizona announces Arizona Diamondbacks 2021 regular season schedule". FOX Sports. 24 March 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  34. ^ "Special TV information for Tuesday's Arizona sports triple-header". Bally Sports. 25 April 2022. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  35. ^ Reedy, Joe (31 May 2023). "MLB takes over Padres broadcasts Wednesday after Bally misses payment". Associated Press. Retrieved 19 July 2023.