Judge Blocks Gray-TV Suns/Mercury Broadcast Deal

(Image credit: Getty/Matthew Stockman)

The Phoenix Suns NBA team has been blocked from entering into a new TV and streaming agreement with Gray Television because of a possible violation of its contract with its current broadcast outlet Diamond Sports Group, which filed for bankruptcy in March. 

U.S. Bankruptcy Christopher Lopez Wednesday ruled that the Suns’ new contract that would allow the Suns and Mercury WNBA games to be broadcast over Gray TV local stations as well as a direct to consumer streaming service powered by Kiswe was void because it had not allowed Diamond Sports Group to negotiate an extension to the contract, according to Reuters.

Gray Television last month announced a deal with Suns NBA and Mercury WNBA teams to bring every locally broadcast game to viewers for free in a statewide distribution model utilizing Gray’s Phoenix television stations KTVK (Arizona’s Family 3TV) and the newly launched KPHE (Arizona’s Family Sports & Entertainment Network). 

Up until the regular 2022-2023 season, Suns games were aired on Bally Sports Arizona, a division of Sinclair-owned Diamond Sports Group RSN, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, citing $8 billion in debt. Immediately after the announcement, Diamond said that the deal violated its current agreement with the Suns.

While Diamond was not awarded any compensatory damages in yesterday's hearing, Lopez left the door open for compensation in a future hearing. 

Attorneys for the Suns told Lopez that their contract with Diamond had expired after the 2022-2023 season, but Lopez countered that the team had promoted the new contract with Gray as a confirmed deal. 

"The Suns are saying one thing outside the court and another thing inside it," he said. 

After the hearing Phoenix Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein said that it would work toward "a fair resolution that will be in the best interest of our fans, our community, and our players," according to Reuters.

According to NextTV, sources familiar with the teams’ negotiations, the Suns received approximately $25 million a season from Diamond but that the new deal with Gray TV which would involve over-the-air broadcasts and a direct-to-consumer streaming service with Kiswe Mobile, involved “significantly less money.” 

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.