As Bally Sports struggles with financial difficulties, Major League Baseball is exploring all of its media options — including taking back local TV rights to 14 teams.
At present, MLB would prefer to keep the status quo with Bally, which operates 19 regional sports networks across the U.S. But as Bally parent Diamond Sports — a unit of Sinclair Broadcast Group — spirals toward bankruptcy, time is running out, and MLB executives are preparing contingency plans.
- “Our strong preference would be for the RSNs to be able to fulfill the agreements they signed with the clubs. However, we need to be prepared if the RSNs are unable to do so,” Noah Garden, MLB chief revenue officer, told Front Office Sports. “This is a situation we have been monitoring for a long time. We have been contingency planning to ensure that no matter what happens with the RSNs, fans will be able to continue watching their favorite teams in their local market.”
- Diamond’s business model is built around local MLB, NBA, and NHL rights.
- A bankruptcy could potentially blow up existing agreements and spark multiple lawsuits.
Bally RSNs could halt millions of dollars in rights payments to MLB teams, said sources. Conversely, those teams could use bankruptcy to wriggle out of their Bally deals and resell media rights to new partners.
In recent years, MLB has forged lucrative new deals with giant streamers such as Apple and Amazon. Tech-savvy MLB could also help teams forge their own direct-to-consumer streaming options.
Direct-to-consumer would also give MLB an opportunity to address game blackouts, one of the chief complaints of baseball viewers.