AT&T SportsNet — which currently airs Utah Jazz games — is preparing to shut down

The regional sports network has told teams in four different states that it does not have the cash to pay for upcoming rights fees.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) The new Utah Jazz court design at Vivint Arena features wood angled to match the “J” note in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.

Utah Jazz officials say they will be able to broadcast all their remaining games this season, even as AT&T SportsNet moves toward shutting down its networks in Utah, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Houston.

The regional sports network has informed teams in those markets — the NBA’s Jazz and Rockets; the NHL’s Penguins, and Golden Knights; and MLB’s Astros, Pirates, and Rockies — that it “will not have sufficient cash to pay the upcoming rights fees.” In a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal, AT&T SportsNet officials said the RSN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, will not fund the shortfall, either.

AT&T SportsNet has given teams a March 31 deadline to negotiate agreements to take over their broadcast rights moving forward, or else risk losing control of those rights in AT&T SportsNet’s potential Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

What does this mean for Utah Jazz fans this year?

In the short term, the plan is for AT&T SportsNet to continue to exist as a broadcasting entity for at least the next two months. That would get the Jazz through the regular season (and potentially the first round of the NBA playoffs) without a channel disruption.

If for some reason AT&T SportsNet were to shutter entirely before then, Jazz officials say they would work with local TV partners to air their games in the interim. Even in the AT&T era, the Jazz have controlled the production of their broadcasts, so switching which channel they’re aired on would be a relatively simple process.

What does this mean for Utah Jazz fans next year?

In the long term, things get both simpler and trickier.

The Jazz don’t have to worry about that March 31 negotiation deadline. Their deal with AT&T SportsNet Is set to expire after this season anyway, so no deal to regain future rights will need to be made.

But AT&T SportsNet’s departure from the regional sports network industry means that the Jazz will need to find another solution to broadcast their games next season. As recently as December, AT&T SportsNet was still being considered in the Jazz’s negotiations for their next TV deal and had an offer out to the team to extend their contract further. Now, though, that won’t be an option for the Jazz.

“We’re still moving forward with finding alternative options as we were before, and luckily, there’s no scramble on our end,” Jazz chief communications officer Caroline Klein said.

A source with the team with knowledge of negotiations indicated that the team was likely headed in a different direction, even before AT&T SportsNet revealed it would exit the RSN business entirely. That’s largely because the team wants to widen its reach, increasing streaming options and the like to allow more fans to watch games.

An announcement on which entity will carry Jazz games next season and beyond isn’t expected until the team’s offseason.

Why is AT&T SportsNet shutting down?

Regional Sports Networks across the nation are facing uncertain futures.

Diamond Sports — the conglomerate that runs the Bally Sports stations which air 14 NBA teams’ games — is expected to file for bankruptcy in mid-March. AT&T SportsNet is facing the same market conditions of rising cord-cutting and declining TV provider uptake of RSNs generally.