The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights have become the latest major pro sports team to bolt from the regional sports network cable TV business, signing a deal to put their non-nationally televised games on E.W. Scripps Co.-owned KMCC starting next season.
Scripps said it will broadcast Golden Knights games free over-the-air to Nevada viewers on the local station, channel 34, which currently airs programming from Ion, Scripps’ national entertainment network.
The Golden Knights are the first pro sports team signed under the newly formed banner of Scripps Sports, which launched in December.
“We see the right live sports as an unparalleled opportunity to drive the value of our linear television streams even higher,” Scripps CEO Adam Symson told B+C’s Jon Lafayette in February. “Live sports has been proven as drawing the latest audiences to linear TV. It also attracts more advertising dollars per programming hour.
“Live sports will draw young new audiences to our brand as fervent fans employ digital antennas to watch their favorite local team for free again,” Symson added.
“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 president and CEO Kerry Bubolz said. “That was our goal in finding a new TV partner. We wanted to serve our fanbase in the best way possible.”
The agreement, terms of which were not disclosed, does allow Scripps to televise all non-nationally exclusive Golden Knights games with full distribution on cable, satellite and over-the-air television. So tiered premium offerings could be down the road.
Perhaps notable: Last year, Scripps quietly paid $14 million to acquire tech company Nuvyyo, maker of niche-popular Tablo TV OTA DVR gadgets. That deal is viewed as a means for Scripps to proliferate ATSC 3.0 reception gadgets into the homes of its viewers. Of course, Scripps hasn't yet said anything about a pay-gated ATSC 3.0 model for its emerging sports media business.
As for the Golden Knights, the five-year-old Las Vegas National Hockey League franchise previously licensed its local TV rights to AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, one of several RSNs that parent company Warner Bros. Discovery has pledged to divest.
In that regard, the deal differs from an arrangement announced last week by the Phoenix Suns, who are leaving bankrupt Bally Sports Arizona to show their games on Gray TV stations in Arizona.
Bankrupt Diamond Sports Group, which operates the 19 Bally Sports RSNs, has petitioned the Texas court overseeing its restructuring to stop the Suns and the WBNA's Phoenix Mercury from executing on that deal and leaving its RSN.
As for AT&T SportsNet, WBD wants out of the RSN business, so the Golden Knights are in need of a new local TV home.
Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies and the NBA's Utah Jazz also show their games on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. New local TV arrangements announcements for both teams are pending.
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Currently, the Golden Knights are leading the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the remainder of the NHL postseason will be presented via national TV deals with Disney's ESPN, and WBD's TNT and TBS.
KMCC, licensed to Laughlin, Nevada, will be rebranded as an independent station before the 2023-24 NHL season begins, Scripps added. In addition to the Golden Knights games, the new KMCC will broadcast local and national news, local sports and additional entertainment programming.
Ion programming will continue to be available to Nevadans over-the-air, on pay TV and on connected TV platforms through a move to another Las Vegas broadcast channel, Scripps said.
Scripps also owns the Las Vegas ABC affiliate, KTNV, which will provide a marketing platform for KMCC and the Golden Knights telecasts and has carried the team's preseason games since the franchise’s inaugural season of 2017-18.
The Golden Knights will transition their AT&T SportsNet play-by-play duo of Dave Goucher and Shane Hnidy over to Scripps.
Golden Knights broadcasts will include pregame and postgame coverage for every game, with additional distribution into Idaho (Boise, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls), Montana (Billings, Butte-Bozeman, Glendive, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula), Nevada (Reno), Utah (Salt Lake City) and Wyoming (Casper-Riverton and Cheyenne-Scottsbluff).
“We have been impressed by the Golden Knights’ commitment to winning and their desire to connect and engage with fans in Vegas and outer markets, as well,” Scripps Sports president Brian Lawlor said in a statement. “This is going to be a wonderful partnership, and it’s the fans who will benefit most. We launched Scripps Sports with the belief that we could help teams reach more fans through our stations, which do not depend on subscriptions and added fees for the consumer.”
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!