It may be a death by a thousand cuts, but the days of the RSN model are dying. Oh, what a time to be alive.
As I have covered before, the Guardians have been mired in a struggle with Bally Sports and their parent company Diamond Sports.
Diamond notified the club earlier this season it would not be paying them, and yet continued to air their games for free until a federal judge intervened and ordered Diamond Sports to pay at least half of what was owed for April and May. The May 31 bankruptcy hearing will be a key date and much in regards to who will air the games moving forward is going to be determined soon thereafter.
And just when you thought that was the end and that MLB would begin airing games over, say, MLB.tv, in steps another possibility. Over the past week both the Phoenix Suns and Las Vegas Golden Knights have decided to terminate their relationship with their respected RSNs and move to free local TV.
The Golden Knights will partner with Scripps Sports, and by doing so their reach will cover five states (Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming). Talk about cultivating new fans.
“This deal is a significant win for our fans because they will be able to see our games on television and for free, if they wish,” Golden Knights team president and CEO Kerry Bubolz said. “That was our goal in finding a new TV partner. We wanted to serve our fan base in the best way possible.”
Those quotes right there should be the guiding light the MLB strives for. You want to grow the game? Then simply get more eyes on the product. Your local networks would be lining up to broadcast your games. In many ways, what was old is new again. Local advertisers would just pivot to whom they are doing business with, so the money will still be there.
Want to know why the NFL is king? It's because of their TV deal, and the fact that it is a 24-hour, 365-day marketing behemoth. On any given weekend, most fans can easily watch three to five games without the need to have a premium cable package.
Anyway, back to the Guardians: This idea was floated out there before, too, prior to the start of the season as the demise of Diamond Sports was gaining traction. The notion of a local affiliate taking over was mentioned. Shonda Rhimes fans may be bummed out that one of their evening programs gets moved, but if it means fans can catch the Guardians on WEWS-5, then so be it! Honestly, this has been a gripe of older fans, that they can no longer watch the team they love. And I have to admit they have a point.
Again, this is all just speculation at this point, but there is now a precedent being set, albeit in different leagues. But it just takes one before others follow. Stay tuned.