PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers have ended their 14-year partnership with NBC Sports Northwest and signed a multi-year contract with Root Sports to broadcast Blazers games, starting next season. The Oregonian reported that it's a four-year contract.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, NBC Sports Northwest will stop broadcasting on Sept. 30. The source said the company wanted to continue its partnership with the Blazers and actively pursued a rights renewal. The staff at NBC Sports Northwest will be impacted, the source said.
"We are disappointed that NBC Sports Northwest will no longer be a media partner and the official network of the Trail Blazers after 14 seasons," a spokesperson for NBC Sports Northwest told KGW. "We are proud of how well we've served the team's passionate fanbase, Northwest sports fans, our partners and our community. We are incredibly thankful to our dedicated and talented staff, who have made that possible over the years."
The news that the Blazers would leave NBC Sports Northwest for Root Sports was first reported on March 12 by national sports reporter Maury Brown. On Tuesday night, Oregonian columnist John Canzano confirmed Brown's report that the Blazers would move to Root Sports.
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Oregonian reporter Joe Freeman reported Wednesday morning that the move will nearly double the number of households that can watch Blazers games in Oregon, from 1.1 million to nearly 2 million homes. After years of frustration with NBC Sports Northwest's inability to strike up a distribution deal with the major satellite providers, it will be a relief to some Blazers fans to know that Root Sports is available on both DirecTV and Dish Network.
While satellite subscribers will finally be able to watch Blazers games, subscribers to many streaming services may be forced to shift to cable or satellite if they want to see the games. According to the Oregonian, about 100,000 Blazers fans in Portland and Seattle subscribe to a streaming service.
NBC Sports Northwest is carried by popular streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu and Sling TV, but the only streaming platform that currently carries Root Sports is AT&T TV. Root Sports is a joint venture between AT&T Sports Networks and the Seattle Mariners.
The question is whether Root Sports can strike up distribution deals with other streaming platforms before the start of the 2021-22 season. Patrick Crumb, the president of AT&T Sports Networks, told the Oregonian that they're talking to other streaming providers.
"We are talking to all of the streaming providers to try to get them to launch the channel," Crumb told the Oregonian. "We want everyone to carry the networks, but obviously it takes two to make that happen. If there are people on those services because they carry the Blazers, they should make their voices heard to the streaming services."
In-game production will stay with the Blazers, according to The Oregonian. Crumb told the Oregonian that plans for additional Blazers-related programming on Root Sports, outside of game coverage, are still in development.
Root Sports is also home to other Northwest pro sports teams, like the Portland Timbers, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Kraken.
"We are ecstatic to join the ROOT SPORTS regional network starting next season," Chris McGowan, president and CEO of the Portland Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter, said in a statement. "With so many other Pacific Northwest teams already in the ROOT SPORTS family and its broad footprint, choosing ROOT SPORTS was the best decision for our fans. We look forward to bringing Trail Blazers games to new viewers, as well as our loyal fans in Oregon, Washington and Alaska."