LAS VEGAS — For their new television deal, the Vegas Golden Knights opted to go back to the future.
Thursday, the team announced it is partnering with Scripps Sports, which will provide free over-the-air telecasts of all non-network Golden Knights games — from the preseason all the way through the first round of the playoffs. The announcement was made at Circa Resort’s Legacy Club in downtown Las Vegas.
Scripps Sports will air Golden Knights games on its local station KMCC-TV, Channel 34 which is currently airing programming from Ion, Scripps’ national entertainment network. Ion programming will continue to be available to Nevadans over-the-air, on pay TV and on connected TV platforms through a move to another Las Vegas broadcast channel. It will remain available for free as an over-the-air station in Las Vegas.
KMCC will be rebranded as an independent station before the 2023-24 NHL season begins. In addition to the Golden Knights games, the new KMCC will broadcast local and national news, local sports and additional entertainment programming.
Scripps also owns the Las Vegas ABC affiliate, KTNV Channel 13, which will provide a strong marketing platform for KMCC and the Golden Knights telecasts and has carried VGK preseason games since the franchise’s inaugural season of 2017-18.
Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed other than it is a multi-year deal.
“This deal is a significant win for our fans because they will be able to see our games on television and for free, if they wish,” team president and CEO Kerry Bubolz said. “That was our goal in finding a new TV partner. We wanted to serve our fanbase in the best way possible.”
The Knights were forced to find a new partner after AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain announced it would no longer be operational following the 2022-23 season. The team and Scripps had been in discussions for a couple months before coming to terms.
In having free over-the-air access to their games, the Knights are using a page from an old playbook NHL teams worked from in showing games in their local markets. Longtime hockey fans may remember New York Rangers games airing for free on WOR Channel 9 or the Los Angeles Kings televising their games on KTLA Channel 5 in Southern California.
When the Golden Knights joined the NHL in 2016, they were given eastern San Bernardino County in California as part of their broadcast territory along with parts of Northern Arizona, all of Nevada, Utah, including Salt Lake City, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. At the time, Bill Foley, the team’s owner and chairman, said he wanted the Golden Knights to be “The team of the Rockies” after striking the deal with AT&T Spotsnet in 2017.
According to Adam Symson, Scripps’ President and CEO, the plan is to service those markets with Ion through various platforms so hockey fans in those areas can watch the Golden Knights.
Foley said he considered trying to create his own network and utilize the various sports assets he controls, including the AHL Henderson Silver Knights, the Indoor Football League’s Vegas Knight Hawks and his Premier League soccer club in England, AFC Bournemouth, as the core of the network’s programming.
“I considered it for about 30 seconds, then they talked me out of it,” Foley said. “We didn’t have the production capabilities to do it on our own.
“What I’m hoping we can do with Scripps Sports is create some additional programming with the Silver Knights, with the Knight Hawks. The local lacrosse team (the Las Vegas Desert Dogs of the National Lacrosse League) is interested in maybe getting involved.”
Bubolz said the NHL had to sign off on the VGK-Scripps deal and once the league had an opportunity review the arrangement, there was no objection.
“As the league moves forward, they see this kind of partnership that’s important to the growth of the game,” he said. “In our business, you’re always looking forward and seeing what the next position will be.”
As for the on-air talent, Bubolz said TV play-by-play man Dave Goucher and analyst Shane Hnidy will be back when Scripps Sports launches in the fall. Goucher and Hnidy have worked VGK games since the inaugural season in 2017-18. Rinkside reporter Ashali Vise, who has been with the team the last two seasons, is also expected to return.
Symson said Scripps is working with streaming services such as YouTube, Hulu and Apple TV to make sure the Golden Knights will be available on the revamped version of Ion along with placing the channel in other markets, including Reno.