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Monday, June 24, 2024

Pro Teams and Leagues Taking Back Media Rights

  • Houston Astros and Rockets in talks to take over their cable operator.
  • With RSNs failing, teams and leagues are offering their own solutions.
Bally Sports

A countermovement by sports teams to take back media rights is picking up steam in the wake of Diamond Sports’ bankruptcy filing.  

For decades, pro sports teams outsourced their television rights to regional sports networks for big bucks in rights fees.  

But cord-cutting drives RSNs like AT&T SportsNet and Diamond Sports Group’s Bally-branded networks into serious financial difficulties. If these middlemen can’t or won’t televise games anymore, then pro teams and leagues will. 

  • MLB’s Houston Astros and the NBA’s Houston Rockets are in talks to take over their cable TV partner AT&T SportsNet Southwest. 
  • With Warner Bros. Discovery Sports informing teams it wants out of the RSN business, look for possible solo strategies for teams serviced by AT&T SportsNet’s channels in Pittsburgh and Denver.
  • Madison Square Garden is inviting fans of the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers to buy and stream games annually, monthly, or game-by-game.  
  • Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment bought the NBC Sports Washington RSN last year. 

If Bally’s 19 RSNs back out of their media rights deals amid the bankruptcy, then MLB promises to enter the breach. 

“If any of the RSNs are no longer able to produce local games, we will be in a position to step in to produce and distribute those games with linear and direct-to-consumer options,” said Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer.

The crumbling RSN model could produce some strange bedfellows. Because the Fenway Sports Group principally owns the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, The Athletic said Fenway’s New England Sports Network could step up.

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