In a rare bright spot for Bally Sports, the regional sports network confirmed that its Florida-based Bally Sports Sun local station will broadcast 71 Lightning games during the 2023-24 NHL season, according to a joint statement from the team and network.
It’s a potential lifeline for Bally Sports and its parent company, Diamond Sports, which is entangled in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and needs to secure major deals with the various sports leagues to ensure its future. Even as it awaits word on its request for more time to lay out its reorganization plan, it is reportedly eyeing potential partnerships with streaming services like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV.
Bally Sports Sun’s Lightning coverage will start on October 14 with the team’s away game against the Detroit Red Wings. Each game broadcast by Bally will feature “Lightning Live” pre- and post game coverage. The games will also stream on the Bally Sports app and on the network’s website.
The team’s 11 other regular-season games will air on ESPN and TNT, the national rights holders, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who reported the news earlier. ESPN will air Tuesday’s season-opener against Nashville. In addition the report said, potential first-round postseason games will be broadcast on Florida Sports Sun.
According to the report, Bally and Lightning struck a deal privately last season, but the terms haven’t been disclosed.
There remains a lot of questions about Diamond Sports Group and Bally Sports. Cord Cutters News independently confirmed that Diamond had reached a deal with Comcast and DIRECTV to extend Bally’s contracts with the pay-TV providers. But even with the extension, Bally Sports might not survive bankruptcy. As a result, networks and leagues are preparing backup plans to ensure Bally Sports continues to operate in the event that the deals don’t close.
An earlier report from the New York Post cited multiple sources that say Bally Sports will shut down next year after it makes some more money from its profitable contracts. This is possible if NBA and NHL teams take up to a 20% cut in TV rights fees. The teams are reportedly open to doing this if it means securing another year on the network. Bally Sports reportedly needed to start making payments to some teams as soon as October 1.
Bally Sports must pay 14 NBA teams about $40 million each – about $560 million in total – to retain TV rights.
The NBA teams Bally Sports currently has contracts with are the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs. Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks. (The Pelicans have reportedly already been paid.)
The NHL teams that Bally Sports currently has contracts with are the Arizona Coyotes, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Los Angeles Kings.