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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Marlins’ Free Streaming Offer to Fans Highlights RSN’s Financial Issues

  • The MLB club offers local fans two months of free streaming of its live games.
  • The offer is further confirmation of the depth of the bitter standoff between Diamond Sports Group and Comcast.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Local media rights typically are one of the largest—if not the top overall—individual revenue sources for most MLB clubs. But such is the troubled state of the regional sports network business that the Marlins have inverted that and turned their local TV situation into a new expense. 

Nearly two months into a bitter carriage impasse between the bankrupt Bally Sports parent Diamond Sports Group and Comcast, the Marlins are now offering fans two free months of DSG’s streaming service, Bally Sports+. Normally, the service costs $19.99 per month, and even with the relatively meager size of the Marlins’ fan base, this promotion could easily run well into six figures in total cost to the team, if not more. 

The team’s promotion runs through the end of July, and fans who sign up closer to that expiration would essentially get the rest of the season for free. 

The offer is also a further confirmation that the Comcast-DSG standoff is not anywhere close to a resolution. The nation’s second-largest cable distribution has already placed several other RSNs, including those in the Mid-Atlantic and Pittsburgh areas, on more expensive and less broadly distributed tiers. As it pursues a similar strategy elsewhere in the country, the company has shown a strong willingness to endure lengthy periods without certain sports networks.

Also making this deal possible is DSG holding the Marlins’ local streaming rights, a provision the company only holds in MLB with that team, the Brewers, Rays, Royals, and Tigers.

Larger Moves

The unexpected offer arrives as DSG is racing to prepare its reorganization plan in advance of a confirmation hearing scheduled for July 29. Several leagues, including MLB, have already cast doubts on DSG’s ability to survive post-bankruptcy as a viable company. 

The Marlins, meanwhile, are in the midst of a woeful season that has already seen the departure of two-time batting champion Luis Arraez. At 27–50, Miami entered Monday with the worst record in the National League and MLB’s second-worst attendance, trailing only the soon-relocating A’s. 

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