An overview of the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns at the Phoenix Suns Arena on July 8, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Christian Petersen | Getty Images
The Phoenix Suns’ move to quit cable TV wasn’t a slam dunk.
A judge on Wednesday halted recent agreements with NBA teams to broadcast the regular season on local broadcast television and direct-to-consumer streaming services, and pulled out of deals with regional sports networks owned by Diamond Sports.
The Suns said late last month they had reached a “groundbreaking” deal with the broadcast owner gray tv Starting next year, all of their regular season games will be broadcast on local broadcast networks throughout Arizona. The team also signed a deal with private video technology company Kiswe to start its own direct-to-consumer streaming service.
The deal would have been unique because a professional sports team was exiting the regional sports business — which has long provided teams and leagues with lucrative fees — and instead brought games back to fans on local television.
Since 2011, the Suns have aired their regular season games on the Diamond-owned and Bally-branded regional sports network, which was formerly part of Fox Sports. Diamond filed for bankruptcy protection in March.
Diamond was quick to hit back at the Suns, Gray and Keesway in court filings, calling on the bankruptcy judge to uphold the automatic termination of all of Diamond’s contracts once protected by Chapter 11. Diamond argued that the Suns did not honor the so-called back-end rights in his contract, which gave Diamond the right of first refusal and allowed for an evaluation process to determine which media rights deal was valued more.
On Wednesday, Judge Christopher Lopez ruled that the Suns violated part of the bankruptcy law and must abide by the terms of their current agreement with Diamond Sports. He added that the Suns and Diamond must come to an agreement and find an evaluator to move the process forward.
The judge did not find Gray or Kiswe had breached the contract.
The Suns argued in court filings that the deal with Diamond ended at the end of the regular season and that the team had tried to negotiate a new deal before it expired.
However, the judge found that the Suns announced the trade too quickly in late April without properly communicating with Diamond Sports. The Suns added a clause at the end of its April 28 press release that the media rights deal would require league approval and “any necessary resolution with current regional sports partners.”
Representatives for the Suns did not immediately respond to a request for comment.