Some late-night phone discussions during the Kraken’s debut game Tuesday led to a breakthrough that will now see the team’s second contest and all other ROOT Sports Northwest-carried matchups shown on DirecTV.
A deal announced Wednesday will see all Kraken and Portland Trail Blazers games on ROOT Sports carried by DirecTV and its DirecTV Stream service. AT&T Sports Networks, which manages Mariners-owned ROOT Sports, on Tuesday had initially announced a list of carriage partners for the NHL-and-NBA-team-bolstered version of the regional sports network (RSN), and DirecTV wasn’t one of them.
But that changed in the hours and evening that followed. A source said the respective heads of AT&T Sports Networks and DirecTV ironed out remaining obstacles by phone during Tuesday’s inaugural Kraken game in Las Vegas being shown nationally on ESPN — which superseded any local ROOT Sports broadcast under the NHL’s rights deal.
“We couldn’t be more pleased about adding DirecTV and DirecTV Stream to the list of providers for the Kraken and the Trail Blazers,” AT&T Sports Networks vice president Nina Kinch said in a statement. “DirecTV continues to be a champion of local sports coverage for fans everywhere. Having the games available on DirecTV and DirecTV Stream is great news for Kraken and Trail Blazers fans who choose to watch the game from home or on the go.”
Fans looking to stream Thursday night’s Kraken game in Nashville against the Predators the game can also do so through fuboTV, which reached an agreement with ROOT Sports last month. Though some operational issues have kept the streaming service from adding ROOT Sports to its lineup right away, the plan is for the RSN to be added Thursday morning ahead of the 5 p.m. game.
The deal averts another potential black eye for sports fans already reeling from Dish TV dropping ROOT Sports two weeks ago just as the Mariners were embarking on their final playoff push in a season-ending series against the Los Angeles Angels.
The new programming additions of the Kraken and Blazers to the ROOT Sports lineup meant providers already carrying the RSN had a choice to make under provisions of their contract: Pay additional money to feature games involving both teams, or decline to take them on and show viewers alternative ROOT Sports programs whenever they play.
That meant, before the new deal, DirecTV customers in Seattle tuning in for ROOT Sports’ debut Kraken broadcast in Nashville featuring John Forslund on play-by-play would have seen something entirely different on their TV screens. That’s now been avoided in a deal that Blazers fans will also be happy with, as the team had long been criticized for not being carried by satellite providers DirecTV and Dish during its 14-year television partnership with NBC Sports Northwest.
That was supposed to be largely resolved by ROOT Sports last June becoming the new broadcast rights holder for Blazers games through the 2024-25 season. But then Dish dropped ROOT Sports two weeks ago when its existing contract expired in what appears to be a permanent move with little chance of resolution given both sides have made statements showing they remain philosophically opposed to their respective business positions.
“The current RSN model is fundamentally broken,” Brian Neylon, Dish’s group president, said in a statement at the time. “This model requires nearly all customers to pay for RSNs when only a small percentage of customers actually watch them.”
But AT&T Sports VP Kinch told The Times her company “proposed commonly accepted, marketplace terms” that Dish wasn’t interested in. Dish has now dropped all but one remaining RSN — Massachusetts-based NESN — as contracts come up for renewal.
The prospect of DirecTV also dropping the additional ROOT Sports offering of Blazers and Kraken games had been viewed as dire news Tuesday by many Portland NBA fans already reeling from the Dish move. For Kraken fans, an interesting twist to all the last-minute drama was that a financial deal approved in August now sees DirecTV controlled by TPG Capital — the company founded by billionaire Kraken majority owner David Bonderman.
So, in effect, it was a satellite provider controlled by Bonderman’s company that risked not carrying games played by his new NHL team if negotiations had stalled.
All that has been settled for now with Wednesday’s deal.