More premium sports events are moving over to free broadcast television.
On Thursday, the National Hockey League and executives with the Arizona Coyotes announced a new multi-year deal that will bring regular season games to KNXV (Channel 15), the Phoenix-area ABC affiliate owned by the E. W. Scripps Company.
The deal comes after Sinclair-owned Diamond Sports Group agreed to terminate a broadcast agreement with the team that once saw Coyotes games air on the regional sports network Bally Sports Arizona. Diamond Sports filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, and has been unwinding some of its television deals accordingly.
“We are thrilled to partner with Scripps Sports and provide free Coyotes games to our fans,” Alex Meruelo, the owner and chairman of the Arizona Coyotes, said in a statement on Thursday. “This is a major win for us to be able to increase our reach and continue to grow the great game of hockey in the desert. We are committed to winning, committed to the valley, and committed to doing what’s best for our incredibly loyal and passionate fan base.”
The games will start airing later this month on a digital sub-channel of KNXV, which current airs programming from Nexstar-owned Antenna TV. The channel, 10.2, is broadcast in standard definition; officials did not say whether Scripps will increase the resolution of the signal ahead of the sports telecasts.
“Scripps Sports looks forward to working with the Arizona Coyotes to showcase their exciting young team,” Brian Lawlor, the president of Scripps Sports, said in a statement. “We believe the future of this team is bright, and we look forward to making the games available for all fans to enjoy.”
More than 80 Coyotes games will air on KNXV’s Antenna TV-affiliated channel. The games will also air in Tucson on a digital sub-channel of KGUN (Channel 9, ABC) and in Salt Lake City on KUPX (Channel 16) and a digital sub-channel of KSTU (Channel 13, Fox). The Tucson and Salt Lake City channels are also owned by Scripps.
One game — a match-up with the San Jose Sharks set to take place on December 21 — is exclusive to Disney-owned streaming service ESPN Plus.
The NHL and the Coyotes said they are also working on a new streaming service that will allow Coyotes fans to watch locally-televised games over the Internet. Plans for the streaming service are still being finalized, the league and the team said.
The agreement between the Coyotes and Scripps is the latest such deal that brings premium sports telecasts once relegated to cable and satellite over to free broadcast television.
In May, Scripps announced a similar deal that brought games played by the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team to its independent station in Las Vegas, KMCC (Channel 34). One month prior, Scripps inked an agreement with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) for local and national telecast rights to some WNBA hockey games, which air on Ion stations.
Some of Scripps’ broadcast rivals are also getting in on the sports action. This past spring, Gray Television said it was bringing Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury basketball games to one of its local TV stations. A short time later, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its independent TV station in Salt Lake City will offer Utah Jazz basketball games this year.