A bankruptcy judge will determine the imminent broadcast homes of the Diamondbacks, Guardians, Rangers and Twins, as bankruptcy-mired Diamond Sports Group attempts to retain broadcast rights to the four MLB teams while not making full rights payments.
Diamond Sports Group, which controls cable broadcast rights to 14 MLB teams, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April. The Sinclair Sports subsidiary was spun off while operating Bally Sports regional sports networks, burdened by heavy debt, and it’s this entity that declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. While Diamond missed some rights payments at the beginning of the year, it has made subsequent payments in an effort to remain current (in the case of Bally Sports North, the Twins have been paid 75% of the past-due rights payment). But in the case of these four teams, Diamond Sports Group is not current, and the teams want their rights back or be paid the full amount owed.
In San Diego, the local Bally Sports RSN walked away from its broadcast deal with the San Diego Padres, leaving Major League Baseball to take over production and distribution of all Padres locally distributed games starting today. The new arrangement, which gives fans the option to watch on television or stream digitally, expands the reach of Padres games from approximately 1.130 million homes to approximately 3.264 million homes in the Padres home television territory. A new direct-to-consumer streaming subscription for $19.99 per month or $74.99 for the rest of the season will be offered via MLB.TV. As a bonus, MLB is lifting the local blackout for Padres games via the broader MLB.TV subscription.
“As Commissioner [Rob] Manfred previously stated, Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute Padres games to fans throughout Padres territory,” said Noah Garden, MLB Chief Revenue Officer, via press release. “While we’re disappointed that Diamond Sports Group failed to live up to their contractual agreement with the Club, we are taking this opportunity to reimagine the distribution model, remove blackouts on local games, improve the telecast, and expand the reach of Padres games by more than 2 million homes.”
We may also see the same model used by the four MLB teams seeking to claw back their broadcast rights in court today. A ruling from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez on Diamond’s immediate actions–pay back the full past-due amount or relinquish the broadcast rights–could come as soon as later today. If Diamond Sports Group is ordered to relinquish rights immediately, MLB could begin broadcasting games as soon as tomorrow.
We are seeing a huge shift in how pro sports are broadcast in this country. In the short term, we are seeing MLB ramp up its broadcast efforts through the end of the season. Longer term, however, we could see some more imaginative offerings, as we’re now seeing with other sports. The Phoenix Suns (NBA), for example, are heading back to over-the-air broadcasts combined with a streaming service for the 2023-202 NBA season. In Las Vegas, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights signed a deal earlier this month with startup Scripps Sports to locally broadcast Golden Knights games for free to residents of Nevada and surrounding states within the team’s broadcast territory. Scripps will air Golden Knights games on its local station KMCC-TV channel 34, which will be rebranded as an independent station before the 2023-24 NHL season begins. Scripps and the Knights will partner on a direct-to-consumer streaming option as part of this partnership.
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