As their seasons are on the verge of starting, several NBA and NHL teams — including the Timberwolves and Wild — are in limbo with their TV futures, which includes how games will be shown this season and how they will be paid for it.
An article Monday in Sports Business Journal framed things up, calling this a "defining week for the future of Diamond Sports," which owns the Bally Sports regional channels that show games for 15 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams.
Two key deadlines loom by the end of the week, SBJ notes: Diamond's deal to show games on Comcast, the largest cable/satellite provider in the United States, expires this week; and Diamond has until Saturday to come up with a reorganization plan in bankruptcy court that will satisfy creditors.
If that's not enough, Diamond's deal with DirecTV expires at the end of October and its deal with Charter is up in February.
As I talked about on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast, the urgent Comcast deadline is the one teams are watching because it is largely believed that Diamond cannot survive without an agreement to show games on that cable carrier.
If those sides reach an agreement, it would at least maintain a temporary status quo. Upcoming NHL and NBA regular-season games, which start in October, figure to be shown on Bally channels.
But if contract talks between the Diamond and Comcast break down (and stay broken), the cascading effect could be significant. The vast majority of NBA teams are due to receive initial payments for broadcast rights from Diamond on Oct. 1 or Nov. 1, SBJ reported, and that money could be in jeopardy.
"I would characterize it right now not necessarily as a black cloud, but a gray cloud hanging over us, without a doubt,'' Orland Magic CEO Alex Martins told SBJ. "We're all sort of sitting anxiously to see what happens with the Bally bankruptcy.''
It could all even end with the NBA and NHL taking over broadcast rights on the eve of their seasons, which would give fans access to the teams they want but would raise questions about how much teams would be paid for those rights.
If this all sounds familiar, a similar process played out in Major League Baseball (and with the Twins) this season. MLB ended up taking over broadcasts of the Padres and Diamondbacks after Diamond relinquished those rights. Diamond also skipped payments to the Twins and a few other teams before ultimately paying. The Twins' deal with Bally Sports North expires at the end of this season.
For NBA and NHL teams, it's a wait-and-see game. Deadlines tend to spur action, even if negotiations are contentious.
The big story a few weeks ago was Charter's standoff with Disney/ESPN, and after more than a week of those sports channels being removed from about 15 million Charter subscriber homes, the sides settled — conveniently, just a few hours before Monday Night Football.
Maybe this will have a similar 11th hour resolution. Until then, the gray cloud lingers.
Here are four more things to know today:
*If the season ended today, the Twins would play the Astros in the Wild Card round. All I will say about that is that it's good that the season doesn't end today.
*This quote Monday from Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell about the team's fumbling problem had my attention. "Either guys are going to do it, or we're going to have to put guys in the game that have ball security."
*The Wild are No. 7 on this ESPN list of how they stack up for the future.
*The Big Ten West might be worse than ever, which makes the Gophers' loss to Northwestern that much more frustrating.