Fans frustrated with New Orleans Pelicans, Bally Sports partnership

Jose Alvarado, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jose Alvarado, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Fans of the New Orleans Pelicans are airing their frustrations with the decision by the organization to stick with Bally Sports as a broadcast partner.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced that they will be sticking with Bally Sports as the team’s official broadcast partner. The embattled media giant is facing a litany of financial issues, contract breaches, and bankruptcy hearings. Bally’s parent company, Diamond Sports Group, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, has already canceled contracts with multiple MLB teams and saw the Phoenix Suns cut ties as well.

Diamond Sports Group said on February 15 that it is skipping its $140 million payout to MLB teams. Keeping the NBA properties seems to be the priority in bankruptcy proceedings. In fact, on May 10, a Texas Southern Bankruptcy Court judge ruled in favor of Bally Sports Arizona, which said that the new media deal announced by the Suns with Gray Television and Kiswe, a streaming company, was void. (Eventually, Mat Ishbia and his new ownership group prevailed and Phoenix fans can now watch games for free.)

It is easy to see the value in this NBA-over-MLB approach by Bally/Diamond/Sinclair, especially considering the bankruptcy circumstances. Fewer games and more eyeballs mean lower production costs and less money spent. Bally Sports currently has 14 teams on the roster but is looking to renegotiate deals with unprofitable teams. Part of the NBA/Bally contract’s 13 stipulations is that teams are to be paid in full.

Even if the checks clear, will this scaled-back, just barely meet the standards approach by Bally Sports work much longer? How long will some of the smaller, underserved markets tolerate not being able to be seen even by the local audience? Staying with Bally brings in money and saves franchise owners start-up production costs associated with launching a streaming option. However, it could be a net-loss relationship, considering the fans being left out or frustrated with the experience.

Familiar faces, same frustrations?

One X/Twitter user summed up the fan response with two simple questions:

Fan complaints can be found on social media throughout every game. There are loading problems, log-in credential issues when using different devices, and glitches in audio/video quality. The pricing structure is also a barrier that leaves fans looking for alternatives that produce no revenue for the team or the league.

At least fans of the Pelicans will get to see the same familiar faces with Bally Sports this season. Joel Meyers, Antonio Daniels, and Jen Hale are all back for another run toward the playoffs. Some markets are starting to lose out on talent due to Bally’s financial troubles. For example, 14-year veteran St. Louis Blues analyst Darren Pang (Bally Sports Midwest) left for NBC Sports Chicago to cover the Chicago Blackhawks. Losing beloved voices would be dangerously close to a step too far for the New Orleans fanbase.

If a few NBA teams break away from Diamond/Bally, it would significantly affect the broadcaster’s ability to stay afloat and pay the other teams. The Pelicans cannot be the last franchise left at the table, though partners with Bally may have to see out at least two more seasons. The deal with Diamond expires at the same time the competition’s linear TV contracts with Turner and ESPN are also due to expire, which is after the 2024-25 season. Those bundles will be worth fortunes, and Bally is unlikely to be a bidder.

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