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Friday, July 12, 2024

MLB Prepared to Take Over Broadcasts, End Blackouts

  • MLB has contingency plans should Diamond Sports fail to pay teams for regional rights.
  • Diamond will miss a $140 million interest payment.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to the press.
Patrick Breen/ USA TODAY NETWORK

Major League Baseball is preparing for a potentially huge change in its media distribution model that could end blackouts on its streaming service.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred explained how the league will respond if Diamond Sports Group — which owns 19 Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks, 14 of which broadcast local MLB games — misses payments and files for bankruptcy.

“Under every single one of the broadcast agreements, that creates a termination right, and our clubs will proceed to terminate those contracts,” Manfred explained.

In that scenario, MLB would produce the broadcasts of those teams through its MLB Network cable channel and negotiate a price with cable distributors such as Comcast and Charter Communications.

As part of those negotiations, MLB would seek “flexibility on the digital side” that would allow fans to stream local games through MLB.TV. In previous years, fans have been unable to stream games in their local area because RSNs held exclusive rights.

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Manfred acknowledged that the league’s contingency arrangements would lead to reduced revenues for the affected teams in the short term. 

The issue could play out in the coming weeks, as many teams are owed payments from Diamond before Opening Day on March 30.

Diamond said Wednesday that it would miss a $140 million interest payment on $9 billion in debt, triggering a 30-day grace period in which it will negotiate with leagues and creditors.

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