Wednesday September 27, 2023
The Best Employers in Sports Survey is Now Open!

Could Scripps Rescue Sports Teams From Dying RSNs?

  • New sports division talking to a dozen teams among major pro leagues.
  • Scripps entering U.S. sports rights market while RSN’s crumbling.
Brian Lawlor of Scripps Sports
Scripps Sports
Front Office Sports Today

Taylor Swift Takes NFL to New Heights

Taylor Swift and her rumored relationship have brought in a new, more female-heavy audience.
Listen Now
September 27, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

The new Scripps Sports division is riding in like a white knight to the possible rescue of worried MLB, NBA, and NHL teams.

The new unit, headed by veteran TV executive Brian Lawlor, is on the prowl for local and even national sports rights. At the same time, the lucrative regional sports network (RSN) model that worked for decades is crumbling.

Sinclair’s Diamond Sports, for example, is heading for an $8.6 billion bankruptcy that could throw media rights for 42 pro teams at 19 Bally Sports RSN’s up for grabs. Warner Bros. Discovery has also informed multiple teams it wants out of the RSN business.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, parent company E.W. Scripps acquired ION Media from Black Diamond for $2.65 billion. So Lawlor’s unit can offer teams and leagues various options, from the local to national media platforms.  

“I think our timing was perfect to be public about what we can do to help solve people’s problems,” Lawlor told Front Office Sports. “So there’s been a lot of interest. Certainly, in the last two months. And certainly in the last two weeks.”

AT&T SportsNet reporter interviews Pittsburgh Pirates player.

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Wants Out Of RSN Business

Seven pro franchises are impacted by Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.
February 24, 2023

Lawlor declined to name teams Scripps involved in discussions. In some cases, concerned teams are reaching out to Scripps, not the other way around.

“There are teams in the NBA that are currently in the last year of their RSN deal and don’t have a solution for next season. So we’re in conversations with some of them,” said Lawlor, who previously led the Cincinnati-based media giant’s local TV division.

“In the last two weeks, some of the leagues are suddenly in contingency mode trying to figure out what happens if Bally stiffs them – and stops production in the next month. So we’ve had quite a few conversations with the leagues and the teams, just helping them identify where we can be a solution for them.”

Scripps has some business advantages that RSNs don’t. It owns 61 local stations in 41 U.S. markets, plus news and entertainment networks like ION. Cord-cutting and cord-shaving are wreaking havoc on cable networks; not local linear network stations.  

Meanwhile, Scripps is also in discussions with senior executives at the league level. 

“We’ve probably had direct conversations with close to a dozen teams – and three or four major leagues,” Lawlor said.

So are the 14 MLB teams currently under contract to Bally’s struggling RSNs among them as a new season approaches?

Lawlor wouldn’t say. 

“We’ve talked to baseball more at the league level than the team level,” he replied.

MLB declined to comment. But sources said baseball is considering “all different options” regarding distribution.

In business negotiations, timing can be everything. 

Right now, the timing seems perfect for Scripps Sports to propose itself as an alternative that’s somewhere between the RSN past and sports’ streaming future.

If teams and leagues want to combine broadcast and direct-to-consumer, then Scripps would be happy to consider options.

Bally Sports is in financial peril.

Last Dance? Diamond Sports Group’s Problems Could Be First Step In RSN’s..

There are stark questions about the financial future of regional sports networks.
February 15, 2023

“I think it’s a unique moment in time. I think it was headed this way anyway. Teams and leagues need reach,” Lawlor said. “There’s all this talk about direct-to-consumer, and that’s terrific, and they get to own their data. But at the end of the day, teams and leagues need to be visible to their fans.”

Scripps is no stranger to sports. 

Over the years, its local stations have acquired rights to various pro and college properties, including the NFL, NHL, MLS, NWSL, the Big Sky Conference, and several historically Black colleges and universities. 

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

NFL's Swift Mania Starting To Show Impact Through Merch Sales, Viewership

Taylor Swift stole the NFL's spotlight by attending Sunday's Chiefs game.
First Take vs. FS1

Sharpe: 'First Take' Would Still Beat 'Undisputed' Without Stephen A.

Even if Smith leaves, Sharpe said he will still beat Skip Bayless in the ratings.

Oakland-MLB Relationship Devolves Into Next-Level Toxicity

Commissioner, mayor have very different accounts of July meeting
The in-market KnightTime+ streaming service will offer 69 regular-season games.

Vegas Golden Knights Launch New Streaming Model Amid RSN Fallout

The KnightTime+ streaming service will offer 69 regular-season games.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Taylor Swift Takes NFL to New Heights (w/ Andrew Brandt)


Featured Today

Jacksonville Jaguars Team President Mark Lamping addressed community members at Strings Sports Brewery on Main Street for the first of 14 planned town hall sessions to present the team's plans for the new "stadium of the future" complex and address the public concerns.

Jacksonville Jaguars President Walks Back Stadium ‘Threat’

"Viewing those comments as a threat to leave Jacksonville isn't correct."
Chatri Sityodtong
September 25, 2023

ONE Championship's Quest To Challenge Rival UFC Through U.S. Expansion

Leveraging its Amazon deal, ONE Championship seeks to expand in U.S.
September 24, 2023

Savannah Bananas Break All The Rules To Hit The Mainstream

Team concludes 2023 tour with even-bigger plans for next year
Deion Sanders with The Rock on ESPN's "College GameDay."
September 23, 2023

Deion Sanders Generated $45M In Earned Media For Colorado

From Sept.1-22, Sanders generated $45.7M for the public university.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Chicago Cubs
New York
Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Inc.
USA - Multiple Locations
Coach Prime bringing improved tv ratings.

Coach Prime's Colorado Changing College Football Viewing Habits

The excitement around Deion Sanders and Colorado is helping drive record September TV ratings for college football.
Chiefs-Bears was the most-watched NFL game on any network this week — averaging 24.3 million viewers on FOX.
September 26, 2023

CBS Nets 13-Year High in September NFL Viewership

This month’s NFL on CBS broadcasts averaged 18.69 million viewers.
Viewership for TNF on Amazon is up 21% through two weeks over last season.
September 26, 2023

Amazon Gets Back-to-Back 'Thursday Night Football' Ratings Wins

Amazon's TNF viewership is up 21% through two weeks over last season.
September 25, 2023

ESPN Reportedly Closing Studios In Aftermath Of Layoffs

ESPN's Seaport studio will reportedly close by 2025.
Ohio State players celebrate after after their defeat of Notre Dame in the final seconds at Notre Dame Stadium.
September 25, 2023

Ohio State-Notre Dame Scores Historic 10.5M Viewers for NBC

It was NBC’s second-most-watched regular-season college football game ever.
September 24, 2023

Fox Opts For College Sports Over WWE Post-UFC Merger

Fox has plenty of college sports to lean on in WWE's absence.
Deion Sanders on College GameDay
September 22, 2023

ESPN Beats Rival Fox in Deion Sanders Bowl

ESPN’s “College GameDay” more than doubled the audience of Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” in Boulder.
Deion Sanders and The Rock
September 21, 2023

Deion Sanders Reshaping College Football Fanbase With Buffaloes Surge

Deion Sanders has made Colorado "Black America's Team."