Judge Joker? Court Blocks Phoenix Suns From Bolting Bally Sports for Gray TV Broadcast and Streaming Deal

NBA Semifinals
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic blocks a shot from Phoenix Suns counterpart Deandre Ayton during the Nuggets’ Western Conference Semifinals win Tuesday night. (Image credit: Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As they've played to a 2-3 deficit in their best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinals series with the Denver Nuggets, the NBA's Phoenix Suns have struggled with the dominant rim protection of Denver's perennial league MVP, Nikola Jokic (aka “The Joker”).

Turns out U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez is a pretty effective shot blocker, too.

The Texas judge, who is overseeing the bankruptcy restructuring of Bally Sports’ parent subsidiary Diamond Sports Group, has ordered a halt to the Suns' plan to bolt their expiring deal with Bally Sports Arizona and enter a new local TV rights agreement with broadcaster Gray Television. 

The judge cited a clause in the Suns’ deal — as well as WNBA franchise the Phoenix Mercury — that prevents the teams from leaving Bally Sports without first giving the regional sports network a chance to enter a more competitive licensing bid. 

Also Read: Diamond Sports Sues the Phoenix Suns After NBA Team Bolts Bally Sports for Gray TV Local Broadcast Deal

According to sources familiar with the teams’ negotiations, the Suns were being paid around $25 million a season in their previous deal with Diamond. Initially at least, the over-the-air broadcast deal with Gray TV, as well as a direct-to-consumer streaming side deal with Kiswe Mobile, paid the team significantly less money. 

The Suns announced their deal two weeks ago and were sued by Diamond for breach of contract shortly after that announcement. 

Also Read: Phoenix Suns Could Have Big ATSC 3.0 Distribution Plans, and Other Teams, Including the Utah Jazz, Might Soon Follow

Attorneys for the team argued that the Gray TV deal didn't preclude the Suns from renewing their RSN deal with Bally Sports. 

However, citing a “media blitz” from the pro hoops team that paid nary a mention of Bally Sports Arizona, the judge didn't buy that. 

“The Suns are saying one thing outside the court and another thing inside it,” Lopez said.

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!