NBA’s Utah Jazz launches direct-to-consumer streaming service

Professional basketball team the Utah Jazz now has a direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, Jazz+, which launched this week to serve live games and additional content to local fans, SEG Media announced.

Jazz+ offers all preseason and regular season live games, excluding nationally televised matchups, starting October 8, as well as original shows, behind-the-scenes content and extras for $15.50 per month or $125.50 per year. It also has a pay-per-view option starting at $5 a game, which launches October 25. To sweeten the annual subscription, the NBA franchise is offering two upper bowl tickets to one Utah Jazz home game during the 2023-2024 season (plus a Jazz T-shirt and hat) for those who purchase between now and October 24.  

Only local fans in Utah and those within the team’s broadcast footprint – including areas of Idaho and Wyoming – can access Jazz+ and the service’s more than 80 live games. Video on-demand replays will be available after each regular season game.

The launch of the streaming service is part of the team’s new play to reach more sports fans, alongside over-the-air antenna access to live games for in-market fans on local TV station KJZZ.

The move to a direct-to-consumer subscription service and OTA broadcast comes against the backdrop of a challenged regional sports network (RSN) model, and a response to Warner Bros. Discovery-owned AT&T SportsNet - where local channels broadcast Jazz games -  exiting the RSN business.

Jazz owner Ryan Smith in an interview with ESPN cited friction for fans in accessing their local teams games, as well as expected changes to RSNs and local cable and not wanting the Jazz “to be part of that roller coaster.”

Part of the aim for teams pursuing DTC efforts is greater reach as traditional pay TV subscribers continue to decline, with ESPN reporting the Jazz as saying the new model expands its reach from roughly 1.2 million people last season to now 3.2 million.

“Creating the best fan experience is top of mind in everything we do. This season, we have so many reasons to celebrate being a Utah Jazz fan – from the return of Delta Center and our 50th anniversary season to the launch of Jazz+ and the ability for anyone in Utah to watch Jazz games on KJZZ,” said Smith, chairman of Smith Entertainment Group and governor of the Utah Jazz, in the announcement. “With Jazz+, we have created 24/7 digital access to the team. We are so excited that all Utahns can be with us for every minute of the action.”

However, as noted in the report, the prior RSN cable model brings with it lucrative fees paid to teams that fall by the wayside in a DTC streaming/OTA broadcast model. According to ESPN, the Jazz were reportedly bringing in around $20 million per season under the deal with AT&T SportsNet.

In a note to investors Friday, Macquarie Research analyst Tim Nollen estimated that at $15.50 per month, the Jazz would need “to get 5% of all eligible residents, or 15% of households, to subscribe to make up for the $20m RSN fee.” 

“It’s another step toward sports streaming,” the analyst noted.  

The Jazz aren’t the first NBA team to go direct-to-consumer. Last October the Los Angeles Clippers launched the ClipperVision streaming service, offering more than 70 live in-market games and priced around $200 last season.

And the NBA’s Phoenix Suns moved out of the RSN cable ecosystem and into OTA broadcasts, announcing in April a deal with Gray Television to deliver every locally broadcast game.  At the time the partners cited plans to introduce a DTC streaming option, with help from interactive video company partner Kiswe (Jazz+ is also leveraging Kiswe’s cloud-based video products).

Also pursuing an OTA and streaming model is the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, which inked a deal with E.W. Scripps in May to broadcast local games. It also planned a streaming service, supported by ViewLift, to bring the team’s in-market live matchups to viewers in Nevada and the surrounding territories.