Stanley Cup champion Panthers sign deal to move local broadcasts from Bally to Scripps Sports


SUNRISE, Fla. — The Stanley Cup champion Florida Panthers are moving their local broadcasts to Scripps Sports, leaving financially troubled Bally Sports and bringing the club’s games into more homes on a regular basis than ever before.

There will be over-the-air channels in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers markets, where viewers can watch the Panthers for most of their regular-season games and their first-round games in the NHL playoffs. Also part of the deal: games on basic cable and satellite, as well as offerings on a new team-branded, direct-to-consumer streaming app. The app will be ready in October for the start of the 2024-25 season, the Panthers said.

“We want to ensure that we’re addressing the heightened demand for our team and our sport, and we want to accelerate that growth,” Mark Zarthar, the Panthers’ chief strategy officer, said Tuesday. “And so, what is the next big step for us is making the viewership of our games much more accessible? With Scripps as an over-the-air provider, they will help us reach over 2.6 million households.”

The move, which already has received NHL approval, comes at perhaps the perfect time for the Panthers.

Attendance has soared in each of the past two seasons, with more than 1 million tickets sold at home games this season for the first time, including playoffs. The team says it is seeing more than a 70% increase in youth hockey numbers over the past decade. And an estimated 400,000 people braved torrential rain and lightning for the team’s victory parade and celebration on Sunday, so interest in the team — still basking in winning the Cup for the first time — likely has never been even close to this high.

Florida will become the third NHL team to partner with Scripps, joining Vegas and Utah.

“We found a partner that not only can provide us with a tremendous amount of reach and accessibility, but they’ve proven that they can do it because it works in Vegas,” Zarthar said. “We feel very confident and comfortable with them, and I give a lot of credit to the NHL, to Diamond Sports Group and to Scripps Sports for making this all work out in the way that we feel very confident moving into next season.”

The Panthers had been working on options for the past several months, and the move in May by Comcast — a major cable provider in the South Florida market — to black out 15 regional sports networks offered by Bally Sports made it seem even more obvious that a change likely was coming soon.

Diamond Sports Group, which distributes the networks under the Bally name, is working to emerge from bankruptcy, further complicating the issue that many Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL teams are facing about game broadcasts going forward.

“After careful review and dialogue, Diamond reached a mutual agreement with the Florida Panthers to end our existing telecast rights contract,” read a statement from a spokesperson for Diamond. “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.”

Many of the plans for how the Panthers broadcasts will look, such as graphic elements, are still being finalized. The team intends to keep its broadcast team intact, an important piece for the Panthers because some of those personalities have been with the club for most, if not all, of the franchise’s 30-year existence.

There are also plans, at some point, to add a Spanish-language broadcast option for Panthers games, which would open even more doors in South Florida given the enormous Latino population. And, without revealing specifics, the Panthers said they are satisfied with what the move will mean in terms of new revenue streams created by getting the games in front of more people.

“We look forward to an unprecedented amount of support and attention on hockey in Florida as we move forward,” Panthers President Matthew Caldwell said.

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