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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Arizona RSN Shutdown Ushers In New Era Of Local Sports Consumption

  • Country's 11th-largest media market left without RSN
  • Local pro teams have all moved to alternate TV plans either by choice or force
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The abrupt shutdown of Bally Sports Arizona only accelerates the crumbling of the regional sports network business — and, in an industry first, leaves the country’s 11th-largest media market without an RSN at all.

The Diamond Sports Group-owned RSN, previously known as Fox Sports Arizona, shuttered after 27 years of operation on Friday, tersely posting on social media that it is “no longer providing coverage of your favorite local teams.” 

The move had been expected after DSG rejected its rights to the Arizona Coyotes, following a similar decision in July for the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

The Phoenix Suns and Mercury began the Bally Sports Arizona exodus earlier this year, striking a deal with Gray Television and forming the Suns Live streaming platform. Those Phoenix-area teams are now primarily shown by a mix of over-the-air television and streaming services.

Still, the formal closure of Bally Sports Arizona begins a dramatic new era in which a major U.S. market isn’t served by an RSN — presenting an influential test case for the rest of the country regarding consumption patterns in this new landscape.

Other similar decisions made in recent months — such as the shutdown of the Warner Bros. Discovery Sports-owned AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain in Denver — ran along similar thematic lines but didn’t carry as nearly much singular weight given the presence of other RSNs in the markets.

RSNs have become among the most vulnerable parts of a sports media landscape already facing unprecedented disruption. Drawing revenue from consumers whether or not they watched the networks for years, those RSNs are now battling against growing cord-cutting. 

Digital revenue, meanwhile, hasn’t come close to replacing what’s been lost among linear subscribers.

DSG continues to fight a multipronged struggle in its effort to reorganize, battling simultaneously against its creditors, leagues, distributors, and even its own parent company, Sinclair Inc. 

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