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Sinclair’s Diamond Sports threatens to sue over Phoenix Suns deal

Diamond Sports said the deal between the Phoenix Suns and Gray Television violates its broadcast agreement for live telecast rights to the basketball games.

Diamond Sports said the deal between the Phoenix Suns and Gray Television violates its broadcast agreement for live telecast rights to the basketball games.

The coverage map of Sinclair’s regional sports channels Bally Sports. (Image courtesy Sinclair Broadcast Group, Graphic by The Desk)

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s regional cable sports subsidiary is threatening to sue the professional basketball teams Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury after the franchises announced a deal with Gray Television on Friday.

The deal gives Gray Television’s KTRK (Channel 3) and two other stations in the Phoenix market telecast rights to Suns and Mercury games, which were previously offered on Sinclair’s Diamond Sports-owned cable channels branded as Bally Sports. It also includes digital rights for a subscription streaming service that is still being developed.

About an hour after the agreement was announced, a spokesperson for Diamond Sports said the deal breached its contract and violated bankruptcy laws, and the company was looking at different legal avenues to address the matter.

“The Phoenix Suns breached our contract and violated bankruptcy law, and Diamond Sports Group will pursue all remedies against any parties that attempt to exercise control over our property interests while we reorganize,” the spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Desk on Friday. “This is an improper effort by the Suns to change their broadcasting partner without permitting Diamond to exercise our contractual rights.”

Diamond Sports filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year, a move that was intended to restructure more than $8 billion in debt associated with its regional cable sports business. Since then, some professional sports teams have not been paid for telecast rights to their games, particularly those involved in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Last week, a federal judge overseeing the bankruptcy case ordered Diamond Sports to make partial rights payments to a handful of MLB teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of its largest creditors.

The league and the teams had earlier petitioned the court to force Diamond Sports to make full rights payments dating back several months. If Diamond Sports could not be compelled to make the payments, MLB and the teams wanted to reclaim broadcast television rights to the games.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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