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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Coyotes Become Final Piece in Shifting Arizona Pro Sports Viewing Landscape

  • President Xavier Gutierrez said DSG’s decision to ditch the Diamondbacks in July kick-started alternative broadcast plans.
  • Coyotes have a week to take over production ahead of the start of NHL season.
Arizona Coyotes
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier Gutierrez and other Arizona Coyotes executives didn’t have to look too far across the desert for a plan once regional sports broadcaster Diamond Sports Group bailed on a pro franchise in bankruptcy court. 

In July, a bankruptcy judge allowed DSG to reject the Arizona Diamondbacks’ broadcast rights, which forced the team to make a quick pivot to a new distribution deal anchored by MLB.TV. With the Phoenix Suns deal up, the Coyotes were left as the only major sports team on Bally Sports Arizona.

“For us, that’s when we really started [planning] in earnest,” Gutierrez, the president of the Coyotes, told Front Office Sports. “We had to continue to maneuver through the bankruptcy because we did not want to do anything to run afoul of any of the bankruptcy [proceedings]. We had to get an order in the court.”

That’s what came down on Thursday, as the judge agreed to allow DSG to reject their Coyotes rights. Within hours, the Coyotes announced a new local TV deal with Scripps Sports to broadcast 81 games over-the-air locally along with carriage on cable. 

The Coyotes are working on a direct-to-consumer offering for area fans. 

Minus the Coyotes, DSG now holds the rights to 11 NHL teams. 

In a Wednesday filing, DSG claimed that “rights fee payments under the Coyotes Agreement total tens of millions of dollars annually and increase yearly” in a deal that was supposed to run through the 2024-25 season. 

Gutierrez declined to comment on the financial impact of the change. 

The team’s focus now is taking over production of the game — something DSG had handled. The Coyotes open the NHL season on the road against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 13. 

“The Meruelo Group [founded by Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo] owns radio and television and production in L.A., and we’re really leaning into leadership from that part of the Meruelo Group universe,” Gutierrez said. “We’re going to be taking on the prior employees who have been doing the games for Bally Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Arizona before that. So, we feel very strongly that it’ll be a smooth transition from that perspective.”

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