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This week the Portland Trail Blazers announced that they would be leaving NBCSN Northwest and moving the Root Sports Northwest for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deal nearly doubles the total number of television households from their prior regional sports network agreement but initial streaming options are limited.
The four-year deal with Root Sports, which is owned by AT&T Sports Networks and the Seattle Mariners will allow the Blazers to expand their broadcast territory so that it covers Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The Blazers will get expanded carriage through the AT&T-owned DirecTV making it the first time the club has had satellite TV distribution.
The deal between the Blazers and Root Sports was first reported by me in early March of this year.
With the addition of the Blazers, Root Sports Northwest sees a robust programming lineup airing games and supporting programming for the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Kraken, Seattle Seawolves, Gonzaga University Bulldogs, Big Sky Conference, and Portland Timbers.
Speaking to Blazers president and CEO, Chris McGowan, he would not comment on the value of the agreement.
While the linear television distribution is a big win for the Blazers, an open question will be digital streaming options. As of now, the only streaming platform available is through DirecTV GO and AT&T TV, the provider’s over-the-top offering. With NBCSN NW out of the equation, YouTube TV, Hulu, and Fubo TV are no longer available leaving a substantial hole for cord-cutters. But in speaking with McGowan, the hope is Root Sports NW will be able to pull together additional streaming options before the start of the 2021-22 NBA season. The addition of the Blazers to an already stacked roster gives Root Sports a substantial selling point for streaming distribution.
“Clearly, [streaming] is the one area that is getting a lot of attention from the fans,” McGowan said. “We respect fans that view our games via the various streaming opportunities that are out there. And we know the importance of that. The streaming landscape isn’t black and white. Just because there was streaming with our previous broadcast partner, that that was going to continue. Streaming deals, just by their nature, are fluid and change annually. We know that we need to come up with streaming options and we’re hopeful that that will happen in time for next season.”
While Root Sports NW works on streaming options for the Blazers, another change comes with once being the lone live broadcast property on NBCSN NW. Root Sports delivers more than 500 live events each year across their five-state footprint, so questions about what happens during scheduling conflicts? While the Blazers’ 2021-22 game schedule is months away from being released, fans should expect the same number of games available as they have had before. That could take the form of an alternate channel or other options, but McGowan made it clear fans will not be losing games due to scheduling conflicts with teams such as the Mariners, Kraken, and others that have overlapping seasons.
“The Portland Trail Blazers are a first-class organization, and we are thrilled to add Rip City basketball to our lineup of exciting game action,” said Mark Jorgensen, SVP & General Manager, Root Sports. “Being the home to one of the best teams in the NBA solidifies Root Sports as a premier regional sports network in the nation.”
According to the Oregonian, the Blazers conducted exploratory negotiations and an extensive search with both traditional and non-traditional distributors. Which begs the question of what the future could be like for not only the Blazers but other clubs across various sports as the streaming landscape begins to fully unfold.
Currently, the focus has been on national broadcasts as witnessed by the extensive agreement the National Football League has reached with Amazon
As to NBCSN Northwest, with the Blazers leaving, they no longer have their lone live sports property. According to multiple sources reported in the media that I have confirmed, the network will close down shortly after the Summer Olympics, likely in September.