Florida Panthers games are moving from cable to local broadcast stations

Sergei Bobrovsky #72 and the Florida Panthers celebrate the Stanley Cup win following a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in Game Seven of the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 24, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. 

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The Florida Panthers are skating to a new TV home.

The National Hockey League Stanley Cup champions have inked a deal to air regular season games on local broadcast networks in Florida and leave behind the cable TV regional sports network that has long been their home.

The Panthers, which have appeared in the Stanley Cup finals two years in a row, signed a multiyear deal with E.W. Scripps that allows the broadcast station owner to televise all locally produced Panthers preseason and regular season games as well as round one of the playoffs.

The Panthers are also working with Scripps Sports to launch a streaming service, with further details expected prior to the start of the 2024 season.

Terms of the deal, which begins this coming season, were not disclosed.

Professional sports teams have been increasingly opting for deals with local broadcast station owners as the regional sports network business is dragged down by consumers leaving the pay TV bundle in favor of streaming.

In particular, Diamond Sports Group — the owner of the Panthers’ prior TV home, Bally Sports Florida — has been under bankruptcy protection since March 2023.

“After careful review and dialogue, Diamond reached a mutual agreement with the Florida Panthers to end our existing telecast rights contract,” a Diamond spokesperson said in a statement. “We greatly value the relationships we have built with the Panthers and their fans, and we wish them the best. We remain in productive discussions with the NHL around go-forward arrangements with our remaining team partners under contract and are focused on reorganizing as a sustainable and profitable entity.”

Since its bankruptcy filing, Diamond Sports has terminated numerous contracts with professional sports teams, which have in turn found new homes on broadcast TV networks.

It has evolved into a significant moment of change for the industry. The regional sports network business model has long been lucrative for the leagues and teams since networks pay big fees for the rights to games that are not nationally aired.

These deals with broadcast station owners promise a large increase in reach and audience. Games are now on broadcast networks available to all pay TV subscribers, as well as for free to people using an antenna.

However, while terms of these deals are undisclosed, they’re unlikely to garner the same size contracts as those with regional sports networks. The Panthers had reportedly renewed their deal with Bally Sports Florida in 2022, doubling the value of the team’s previous 10-year deal, which was about $6 million a year.

Last year Scripps signed a similar deal with the 2023 Stanley Cup champions, the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Meanwhile, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz are also aired on local broadcast stations. Various broadcast station owners have shown interest in becoming the homes of professional sports as the traditional RSN business is under considerable stress.

There may be more opportunities, too, as Diamond Sports is still working to exit bankruptcy protection.

Last month the leagues expressed concern over Diamond Sports’ future, and whether it would be able to put together a viable business plan ahead of the upcoming seasons. Diamond returns to bankruptcy court later this month to seek approval for its reorganization plan.

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