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MLB Creates Local Media Department to Address RSN Challenges

  • MLB has hired three staff members with decades of regional sports experience.
  • The team is being led by media industry executive Billy Chambers.
Behind the scenes look at a regional Bally Sports studio filming for the Detroit Tigers.
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Major League Baseball has taken a big step toward taking control of its teams’ local media rights.

MLB has hired three staff members with decades of regional sports experience to join the league’s newly created Local Media department, led by media industry executive Billy Chambers.

  • Doug Johnson is joining as senior vice president and executive producer of local media.
  • Greg Pennell is SVP of local media.
  • Kendall Burgess is vice president of local media technical operations.

“These new hires are an important step in our preparation to address the changing landscape of MLB game distribution in light of the increasing challenges and pressure facing regional sports networks,” MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden said in a statement.

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The league is attempting to rein in its local media strategy in the wake of troubling news for regional sports networks.

In February, Diamond Sports Group — the Sinclair Broadcasting subsidiary that owns and operates 19 Bally Sports RSNs — missed a scheduled $140 million debt payment and now could be headed for an $8.6 billion bankruptcy.

About a week later, MLB created an economic reform committee to address its local media deals and payroll disparity.

A white knight could be on the way, though: E.W. Scripps has created a new sports division that will be in the running to buy local and even national sports rights, hiring veteran TV exec Brian Lawlor to run the operation.

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