Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith on team’s TV deal: ‘Let’s find a better experience’

Can the Clippers’ new streaming service provide a model for the Jazz in Utah?

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith visits with reporters, during the Utah Jazz Media Day, on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

Will there be an easier way for Utah Jazz fans to watch games in the near future?

Jazz owner Ryan Smith hopes so — and now there’s a competing team with a forward-looking streaming product for the team to emulate.

The Los Angeles Clippers announced Monday that they are launching a direct-to-consumer product featuring six different stream options, with more in the planning stages, and without any pay-television subscription required. The NBA’s new digital platform, which powers the league’s updated app, is the vehicle the Clippers have leveraged to make their idea happen.

The product — ClipperVision, it’s called — is a first for the NBA, and the team says it is planning on streaming more than 70 games live in-market this coming season. The product costs $199 per season, or the equivalent of just under $17 per month, though Clipper fans can buy it at a preseason rate of $100 for the next two days.

In addition to live streams of traditional Clippers broadcasts, the product also has options where fans can choose an alternate stream; another that offers augmented graphics showing real-time shot probability and other stats during live play; options in both Spanish and Korean; and one called BallerVision — which will have a rotating lineup of analysts including Jamal Crawford, Baron Davis, Paul Pierce, Quentin Richardson, and Matt Barnes.

It’s the kind of option that Jazz fans have wanted for years. Right now, Jazz games are available on two streaming platforms, DirecTV Stream and FuboTV. But both are more fully-featured streaming services with dozens of other channels bundled, and the price begins at $70 per month for each.

What about the Jazz? Smith was asked about it at a news conference on Tuesday.

“I think this is the first year we’ve really gone into open negotiations out there or looked, and I think the conversations are going fast and furious,” he said. “What I can tell you is that we’re making a lot of progress. We will have more streaming options next year.”

But Smith seemed to slow the idea of the Jazz getting a Clippers-esque solution too. Clippers owner Steve “Ballmer’s been trying to do this, I think, since I got in the league,” Smith said. “What you have in the NBA specifically is you probably have about 16 Sinclair RSNs (regional sports networks), and then you’ve got Bally’s, and then a hodgepodge of others. And I think that everyone’s kind of got a unique thing.” (Bally’s, by the way, is actually a Sinclair venture.)

Obviously, Los Angeles and Utah are very different local TV markets — but more people watch Jazz games than Clippers games, even though there are more than five times as many TV households in the Los Angeles TV market as in the Salt Lake market. In the last season for which we have data, 2020-21, the Jazz earned a 5.9 rating locally (second best in the NBA), while the Clippers earned just a 0.62 rating on Bally Sports SoCal (third worst in the NBA), according to Sports Business Journal. That means, on average, about 65,000 homes tuned into Jazz games (Utah’s market also includes parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada) compared to about 35,500 for Clippers games.

”I think long term where this goes, we’re looking at it from a fan experience standpoint and saying, ‘Hey, look, there’s a huge contingency of our fan base — not as many as want cable — but want a better experience and I think we should get a better experience,’” Smith said.

Right now, Jazz games are also available through traditional Comcast and DirecTV services on AT&T SportsNet. They will broadcast 81 of the 82 Jazz regular season games this season.

Smith said Jazz CEO Danny Ainge “reminds me of it every game, every road game, he’s like, ‘Let’s find a better experience there.’ So we’re on it. We’re all hands on deck on it, but it’s not as simple as I think maybe I would like it to be, to be honest with you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.