Don’t change that dial, Jazz fans.
Not yet anyway.
Utah Jazz games will remain on regional sports network AT&T SportsNet for the 2022-23 season — but it could be the last season for the arrangement.
AT&T SportsNet is available to subscribers of Comcast and DirecTV. The channel is not available on Dish, which has dropped every regional sports network nationwide in recent years, telling consumers that they consider the per-subscriber fees charged by the networks to be too high.
The channel is also available in two streaming services to local audiences: DirecTV Stream and FuboTV. It is not available on other streaming services, like YouTube TV or Hulu.
Those options will not expand for the 2022-23 season, team sources said Wednesday.
Now, though, the team says it has opened up negotiations with other TV partners.
“Opening contract negotiations with potential broadcast and streaming partners allows us to explore options for enhancing the access our fans will have to Jazz games in future seasons,” Jim Olson, president of the Jazz, said in a statement sent to reporters. “We’re excited about the productive discussions we have initiated with a variety of providers, and are looking forward to solidifying the best, future partnership for our organization and fans.”
AT&T SportsNet, then Fox Sports Net, first gained control of the Jazz’s games in 2009, when the team signed a 12-year, $240 million deal with the station. That deal expired in 2021, but AT&T SportsNet has since owned an exclusive negotiating window for the rights to Jazz games on TV, according to a Jazz source. As a result, the team has been with the channel for an extra two years beyond that contract expiration date.
In negotiating a new deal, the franchise’s goals are to make Jazz games available to fans through three different pathways: traditional TV packages, options for bundled streaming packages, and, intriguingly, pay-per-view streaming.
That model could work like ticket sales at Vivint Arena: fans could buy the ability to watch just one game, or a full or half-season package. Even more flexible packages, like a “weekend” package or packages against certain opponents could also be options.
The Jazz hope that the future variety of options will help combat the rise of illegal streaming. The team conducted a recent focus group on the situation with 50 participants — and when they were asked if they had watched the Jazz through an illegal streaming service, nearly all of the hands in the room went up, according to team sources.
There’s no timeframe for a deal, but a Jazz official said that the phone has been “ringing both ways” from a number of potential partners who have shown interest in a deal moving forward that would meet both traditional and streaming fans. That the Jazz produce their own games — employing directors, producers, and broadcast talent — removes one barrier to entry for those who want to manage the Jazz’s broadcasting packages. It’s also possible that the Jazz could work with one partner for traditional TV, and another for streaming.
Regardless, it’s clear that the Jazz don’t have interest in returning to the free TV model used by the team until the rise of regional sports networks. In the 1990s and early 2000s, fans could watch Jazz games on over-the-air channel KJZZ, but the team made clear that they need to earn significant revenue from the TV deal.