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Florida Panthers Leaving Bally Sports, Going to Free TV

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The Florida Panthers have ended their relationship with Bally Sports and will have their games broadcast over-the-air throughout South Florida this coming season.

All games which are not national broadcasts will be seen on WSFL-39 in Miami/Fort Lauderdale and WHDT-9 in West Palm in a broadcast partnership with Scripps Sports.

Games will also be on in the Naples/Fort Myers market on a station yet to be named.

The Panthers and Scripps will also unveil a streaming service which will be available on Apple, Android and smart TVs later this summer.

The broadcasts will be readily available on all cable and satellite systems in South Florida as well as accessible with an antenna.

Most streaming services also provide access to local channels in their markets.

For those who are out of the South Florida market, all games will continue to be streamed on ESPN+.

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“You can buy an antenna for $20 and get our games now,’’ Mark Zarthar, the Chief Strategy Officer of the Panthers, said Tuesday. “That is the most critical piece of this puzzle; our fanbase has grown dramatically in the past few years.

“We had a 26 percent growth in attendance in two years, we had 30 sellouts this season. In the Stanley Cup Final, our ratings were up 82 percent in West Palm and 77 percent in Miami/Fort Lauderdale. And you saw the parade, right? We have a 73 percent growth in youth hockey over the past decade versus 11 percent nationally.

“With this supercharged growth, we want to satisfy our new fans but also accelerate growth. Key to that is going to be accessibility as far as viewership. Scripps, as an over-the-air provider, reaches over 2.6 million households in South Florida. If you have basic access, you have our games and that will help grow the fanbase and our sport.’’

The Panthers, since their inception in 1993, have been with some version of the current Bally Sports umbrella — from Sunshine Sports, SportsChannel and Fox Sports Florida.

Due to the bankruptcy of Bally Sports’ parent company Diamond Sports, and the loss of Xfinity/Comcast as a major distributor, that ended today.

“We would like to take a moment to thank and acknowledge the commitment from Bally Sports Florida since the inception of our franchise,” said team president Matt Caldwell.

“We look forward to an unprecedented amount of support and attention on hockey in Florida as we move forward.”

The Panthers expect their broadcast crew — which includes Steve Goldstein, Randy Moller, Katie Engelson, Jessica Blaylock, Ed Jovanovski, Jeff Chychrun, and Craig Minervini — to remain with the Panthers.

Blaylock and Minervini are the only two of that group who work for Bally Sports in non-Panthers capacities as they both work Marlins baseball as well.

“Pending their employment status with Ballys, but we expect to retain our on-air talent, or at least the vast majority of it,’’ Zarthar said. “That is absoultely in our plans and we know our fans want our crew back.’’

Said Goldstein: “I’m excited about the new partnership with Scripps and know they will be a great new partner, as Ballys was for many years. The Panthers have stated they hope to keep the entire broadcast team intact, and that sounds great to me as I enter my 28th year with the organization.”

Last year, Scripps partnered with the Vegas Golden Knights and the Arizona Coyotes for over-the-air broadcasts to great success.

The Utah Hockey Team will also be over-the-air this season — and more will be coming.

“They started a relationship with the Golden Knights this past season and ended up more than doubling their viewership in one year due to the accessibility,’’ Zarthar said. “We’re really confident and thrilled about this relationship.’’

Scripps Sports will be responsible for the production of the pregame, in-game and postgame shows. There will also be a weekly Panthers program that showcases the team, its players, and the organization off the ice.

“The Florida Panthers are the best team in the NHL, and their fans deserve to be able to see all of their games on every available broadcast platform, including free over-the-air,” said Brian Lawlor, president of Scripps Sports which also has broadcasting deals with the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League.

“When the Stanley Cup champions take the ice in October, Scripps Sports will be proud to bring all locally broadcast games to all the Panthers fans in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers using our powerful over-the-air TV stations.”

More FHN Coverage of the Stanley Cup Champion Panthers:
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
  • NHL Free Agency: Opened Monday
  • Florida Panthers Development Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Starts July 8
  • Florida Panthers Training Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Mid-September
  • Florida Panthers Preseason: Sept. 22-Oct. 5
  • Florida Panthers Opening Night/Banner Unveiling: Oct. 8 vs. Bruins

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