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HomeSportsQ&A with commissioner Gary Bettman: NHL is ‘preparing alternatives’ to Bally Sports

Q&A with commissioner Gary Bettman: NHL is ‘preparing alternatives’ to Bally Sports

When Diamond Sports, the parent company of Bally Sports Southwest, filed for bankruptcy in March, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was just hoping the league could get through the season.
“I was like, ‘All I want to do is get through the regular season because then all the games are on national TV, and it’ll become baseball’s problem,’” Bettman said ahead of the Stars’ game against the Seattle Kraken on Monday night.
Now, nine months later, baseball survived its 2023 season, and the regional sports network’s issues have become the NHL’s problem again, as Bally Sports holds the rights to 12 teams across the league, including the Stars.
Throughout the first two months of the 2023-24 season, Bally has experienced multiple outages during Stars games, especially on its app, preventing in-market fans from watching their team. Fans also have complained that Bally Sports Southwest is not available on the most popular streaming platforms, including YouTube TV, Hulu and Sling TV. The only options for streaming are DirectTV Stream, FuboTV and the Bally Sports+ app.
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Another complaint has been the price. Fans in North Texas can subscribe to Bally Sports+ app to watch Mavericks, Stars and Dallas Wings games (Rangers games are a separate cost) for $19.99 per month or $189.99 per season, which costs more than out-of-market fans subscribing on NHL Power Play on ESPN+ for $10.99 a month or $109.99 per year.
Bettman said he and other league officials are aware of these concerns and are monitoring them.
“The biggest concern is making sure fans have access to our games,” he said. “We’re preparing alternatives for clubs. We’re going to make sure we’re in a position where games are available, and we’re going to seek to evolve with the times because the model has obviously been under some stress.”
While the league is comfortable with the positive growth it is experiencing through national distribution platforms, regional sports networks such as Bally have been unreliable. Bally’s bankruptcy may not affect the league dramatically from a financial standpoint, Bettman said, but he said he is conscious of the way it could impact the 12 NHL teams that are partners.
Bettman said Monday he is hopeful Bally is able to resolve the current issues and remain a longstanding partner of the league. But if the company cannot, Bettman ensures fans the league has a plan.
“We have contingency plans,” he said. “It’s more in the short-term of making sure we can deliver games. That’s something from the first time I was worried that we had prepared for.
“The longer-term business strategy is something that’s going to have to evolve.”
Bettman spoke Monday on a number of other topics concerning the NHL and the Dallas Stars. Here are the highlights:
Is the league discussing changes to the 3-on-3 overtime rules?
Bettman: “The managers raised the issue at the last meeting that we had in Toronto. There’s a mixed view right now on it. It gets a little defensive and then all of a sudden it opens up and there’s chaos. I think when we have the full three-day general manager meeting, which we have in Florida in March, we’ll see whether or not we think there’s a problem. I don’t know that there’s agreement that there is. But if the group concludes that maybe they think we need some adjustments, then we’ll talk about it. I don’t think we’re at the point where enough managers view it as a problem.”
Are you happy with the league’s salary cap?
Bettman: “I mean, it’s what we predicted. When we redid the deal through COVID and extended the CBA, we made a series of projections: The escrow is going to be paid off as we predicted, the cap is going to go up somewhere around $4.5 million. We think the system is working the way it was intended.”
Is there concern about the salary cap, especially when it comes to goalies and the increased need for EBUGs?
Bettman: “If you take out the last five years, you had a 50-year period where maybe we saw the EBUG twice because of injury. Now it’s become a matter of cap management. If you put yourself in that position, then that’s the position you’re in. If you leave yourself cap room, then you’re not in that position. It’s really on the club to manage the cap.”
How do you view the current state of head injuries in the league?
Bettman: “You see penalties called for that on a regular basis, and you see supplemental discipline in post. I think we’re not seeing a rash of those, and I think the Department of Player Safety does a very good job of watching every minute of every game and making sure that improper conduct and improper hits are being punished.”
How much do you take concern when another team is sold like the Mavericks in the NBA?
Bettman: “I think the only way it affects the Stars is the fact that they both own [the American Airlines Center]. I don’t think anybody knows yet what new ownership is going to bring to bear. But I know Tom [Gaglardi] loves this building and is looking to put more into it, and I’m hoping he has a willing partner.”
Where are we in the process of playing a game in Mexico, and how would the Stars factor into that?
Bettman: “If there’s a way to do it, we’d like to explore it. Having a place to play that has ice is probably the biggest impediment, but it’s something that we have looked at and we’ll continue to look at. The Stars have told me that they very much would not only like to be in the conversation, but would like to be in the game if it actually happens, and I understand that desire.”
Are there plans to expand the NHL?
Bettman: “We just finished two very successful expansions, maybe the most successful that anyone has ever seen in terms of the team on and off the ice. Vegas and Seattle have been great. We’re not currently focused on an expansion process where we say, ‘If you want a team, by this date file an application.’ We’re not there. We are getting expressions of interest from places like Quebec City and Atlanta and Houston and Salt Lake City, and we’re listening, but we haven’t determined to pursue any of them at this point.”
Twitter: @Lassimak
Find more Stars coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.



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