The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of 16 teams whose TV contract is with Diamond Sports Groups, Bally Sports. The regional sports network (RSN) has faced various challenges since launching its own streaming service, none larger than filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last season.
Amazon may or may not decide to purchase Bally and solve their problem, but if the deal falls through the Thunder may have found their own solution.
On Friday, January 26, 2023, the Thunder aired its first "Thunder Friday Nights" broadcast on local TV; it was the first of eight broadcasts on KSBI, a Griffin Media station.
Things went off without a hitch. The game itself, along with a 30-minute pre- and postgame show, featured the Thunder's same TV crew that can be seen on Bally.
Such as Paris Lawson and Royce Young handling the pre and postgame, and Michale Cage and Chris Fisher on the call with play-by-play. This is a group the Thunder fan base has become accustomed to over the years.
The Thunder defeated the New Orleans Pelican in an impressive 107-83 victory. Fans across the OKC metro, as well as those in Tulsa, Wichita, KS, Wichita Falls, and Joplin, MO, got to see the contest over the air for free, without a streaming service or even Wi-Fi.
How will Local impact the Thunder?
Prior to the beginning of the season, the Phoenix Suns went exclusively local for their regular TV deal. Could the Oklahoma City Thunder eventually opt to do the same? Perhaps anything is within the realm of possibility. This should be exciting for the Thunder fan base.
If the Thunder did go with an all-over-the-air approach next season, it would undoubtedly bring their viewership up, potentially increase ticket sales because more fans are seeing the team, and ultimately boost merchandise sales.
At this time, what will happen with Bally is up in the air. With that said, moving forward if the Thunder must pivot to a backup plan, this should be it. Perhaps this will not be a short stint of Friday night broadcasts but a preview of what's to come in the future.