Bally Sports is a mess, but here’s how you can watch Thunder basketball games on TV

Bally Sports is a mess, but here’s how you can watch Thunder basketball games on TV

Sellout Crowd colleague Jon Hamm and I break down how to watch Thunder basketball, where to find Bally Sports Oklahoma and answer other TV broadcast questions.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Oct 17, 2023, 6:07am CDT

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Oct 17, 2023, 6:07am CDT

The Thunder regular season is fast approaching, and after a couple of years of blah basketball, the Thunder is looking again like a playoff team. That means lots of you are about to have a renewed interest in Oklahoma City and want to actually watch these guys play.

How to watch them on TV, though, is a bit of a trick.

If you haven’t heard, Bally Sports and its regional sports networks are going through bankruptcy. They’re in court, but at this point, nothing has been decided. Thunder games, broadcast on Bally Sports Oklahoma, are still appearing there.

But even without the bankruptcy mess, Bally Sports isn’t exactly easy to find.

So, what do fans need to know heading into the season?

Sellout Crowd’s Jon Hamm and I are here to help.

Jenni: First of all, if you could see Thunder games on TV last season, you should be able to see them the exact same way this season. Local cable. DirecTV. Bally Sports streaming. All remain options.

Jon: I’ve talked to a lot of fans who bemoan the fact that it’s a chore to watch Thunder games. Bally Sports Oklahoma, formerly Fox Sports Oklahoma, is missing from several premier cable TV subscriptions. Dish Network dropped them in 2019. The channel disappeared from YouTubeTV and Hulu Live TV after the 2020 Disney bubble. 

Jenni: Oh, no doubt. After Sinclair bought the Fox Sports Regional Sports Networks, as they were known then, there were all sorts of disputes with providers. It has become extremely difficult to find games, which is always frustrating but becomes even more frustrating when you have a good, exciting team worth watching.

Jon: For now, Bally Sports can be found at the places you mentioned and also can be accessed via the Fubo subscription service, a product similar to YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV. Another streaming option, Bally Sports Plus, has a new offering this year. Previously, subscribers could choose to pay $19.99 per month or $189.99 annually to stream the games. Now fans can choose an option to pay only $135.99 per season. Basically, fans can save a few bucks if they only want access to Bally Sports for nine months.

Complicating matters is the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings with Diamond Sports Group, the operator of the Bally Sports regional networks. It’s possible that the Thunder broadcasts are not affected, but they may have to rapidly pivot to a backup plan if something collapses with their Bally Sports agreement.

Jenni: Because of that is a possibility, I would suggest fans go month-to-month on Bally Sports Plus. Yes, a season-long subscription might save a few bucks, but a decision in this bankruptcy case could come at any point. (Bankruptcy judges don’t care about the start of the NBA season, so there’s no urgency to get this case done because of that.) Depending on how the decision goes, Diamond Sports investors might push for Bally Sports to get out of deals with teams. Some? All? Who knows. That could happen mid-season (or not). If it does happen, the Thunder could be off Bally Sports on a moment’s notice. Then, you’d have a season-long subscription with no Thunder.

Jon: Which makes it really unfair that fans have to assume risk just to watch their favorite team. The whole situation is a mess and leaves fans without a stable, reliable option. Granted, it could be worse. Fans in Denver have been practically blacked out from watching the Nuggets over the past few years due to rights disputes.

Jenni: I will say, if the Thunder ends up on the outs with Bally Sports, I suspect the viewing options will actually increase for Thunder fans. The Thunder employees its broadcast staff. Producers. On-air talent. All of that. So if Bally Sports cuts the cord with the Thunder, the team will be in great shape to start broadcasting games, likely on a local channel, right away. A Thunder staffer recently told me that there is no reason to think there’ll be an interruption of Thunder game broadcasts. Then again, every game this season may be on Bally Sports. Who knows.

Jon: A lot of this uncertainty has pushed fans of all ages and technical ability to some … darker corners of the web to view games. I’ve heard of all sorts of solutions that are both simple (links posted in Facebook fan groups) and more complex (VPN subscriptions). There will always be a segment of folks who wear a black eye patch and opt to obtain digital goods illegally. But technology has made it possible for those without an IT background to do it, and unfortunately, that can sometimes be easier watching games the legal way right now.

Ultimately, the regional sports network business as a whole is at a crossroads. The Suns and Jazz are moving their games to over-the-air channels and adding a streaming subscription option. It’s possible this becomes the new normal across the league. What was old is new again. Remember that the very first Thunder regular-season game was broadcast locally on KSBI back in 2008.

Jenni: I do remember that! The quality wasn’t great in terms of it not being high definition. Assume that if the Thunder has to go over-the-air this season, the picture will be much, much better. But here’s the bottom line: even though Bally Sports is a dumpster fire, you are able to see Thunder games on TV. There are options via cable, satellite, streaming and yes, pirating. And even if Bally Sports ceases to exist, Thunder TV broadcasts won’t.

 

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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