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Florida Panthers Remain on Bally Sports Until End of Season. Then What?

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The television voices of the Florida Panthers — Steve Goldstein and Randy Moller — will continue calling games on Bally Sports Florida through the end of this season. // Photo courtesy @GoldieOnIce Instagram

The Florida Panthers will remain on Bally Sports Florida for the remainder of this season under a deal reached between the NHL and the regional sports network in a filling made in bankruptcy court on Wednesday per various news reports including the Associated Press.

After this season, however, the Panthers — as well as a lot of other professional sports teams — could have their games carried somewhere else as the NHL will recapture broadcast rights in this new deal.

Diamond Sports Group, which owns the Bally Sports regional sports network, is the local rights-holder for 11 NHL teams including the Panthers.

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In 2022, the Panthers signed a new, multi-year deal to remain on Bally Sports in a deal which Sports Business Journal reported brought in an estimated $14-16 million per season to the team — double what they had been making from a front-loaded 10-year deal signed by previous ownership in 2012.

Fox Sports paid much of the money on that 10-year contract up front before Vinnie Viola bought the team in 2013.

The Panthers have been affiliated with what is now known as Bally Sports since their inaugural season in 1993.

Florida initially signed a three-year contract with Sunshine Network which was based in central Florida before moving over to SportsChannel Florida which was mostly owned by Marlins and Panthers’ founder Wayne Huizenga.

Not long after Fox Sports was purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting, it sold the naming rights of the network to the Bally gaming group in 2020 for a reported $85 million over 10 years.

The rebrand became official in 2021.

With the NHL agreement, Diamond Sports will pay a discounted rights fee to some of their teams — with the NHL gaining the broadcast rights to the 11 Ballys teams following this season.

A similar agreement was reached for the 15 NBA teams Bally Sports carries in November.

That deal has a court hearing next month; the agreement with the NHL does need court approval.

According to the AP, “Diamond Sports has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the Southern District of Texas since it filed for protection in March. The company said in a financial filing last year that it had debt of $8.67 billion.”

Next up is Major League Baseball with Bally’s parent company trying to end those contracts by the end of the coming season.

Bally sports

This means Bally Sports could close up shop in the coming year although, if successful coming through bankruptcy, may just become a smaller regional sports network and continue covering teams with new rights agreements — including the Panthers.

A new Bally Sports free of bankruptcy and debt could be appealing to the Panthers and other local teams although new carriage deals would have to be negotiated.

The NHL teams currently on Bally Sports include Anaheim, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon Prime was “actively negotiating” with Diamond/Bally for a “multi-year streaming partnership.’’

Per the WSJ, Amazon was “in talks to invest in the biggest regional-sports programmer, a move that would advance the e-commerce giant’s aggressive push into sports content as it takes on streaming rivals like Disney and Netflix.’’

The WSJ categorized Amazon’s interest as a “strategic investment.’’

Bally Sports Florida is scheduled to broadcast 70 of Florida’s 82 games this season with the remainder being national exclusives either on TNT, ESPN, ABC or streamed on ESPN+/Hulu.

They also have local rights to the first-round of the postseason.

Some games, due to conflicts in the spring with the Miami Marlins, may end up being broadcast on Bally Sports Sun.

This new agreement would also allow for some games to be moved to over-the-air stations this season.

In South Florida, options could be WBFS-33 or WSFL-39.

As far as what happens to the broadcasters — such as Steve Goldstein, Randy Moller, Katie Engleson, Craig Minervini and Jessica Blaylock — they would likely remain as part of the crew, moving with the team to the new carrier.

Stay tuned.

ON DECK

ST. LOUIS BLUES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS 

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • This Season — At Florida: Thursday. At St. Louis: Jan. 9.
  • Last Season: Blues won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: St. Louis leads 26-12-1, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Vegas, 3 p.m.

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