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Monday, June 24, 2024

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Wants Out Of RSN Business

  • Discovery’s AT&T SportsNet tells teams it can’t pay rights fees.
  • Sports franchises have a deadline of March 31 to work something out.
AT&T SportsNet reporter interviews Pittsburgh Pirates player.
USA TODAY Sports

The regional sports network business model continues to implode across U.S. sports.

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports has told multiple sports teams it wants out of the RSN business completely, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This week, the division informed multiple pro sports teams it wants to stop operating its three AT&T SportsNet-branded channels in Pittsburgh, Denver, and Houston.  

Patrick Crumb, president of RSNs at Warner Bros. Discovery, informed the teams via letter that the three channels don’t have the cash to cover upcoming rights fees. Nor will the parent company cover any shortfalls.

AT&T SportsNet would prefer to transfer ownership of the networks and media rights to the teams. But if that doesn’t occur by March 31, the channels could file for Chapter 7 liquidation.

“We find ourselves running out of time and options,” wrote Crumb.

Bally Sports is in financial peril.

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The news impacts teams across MLB, NBA, and NHL. Among the teams carried by AT&T SportsNet are:

  • MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies.
  • NBA: Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets.
  • NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins, Las Vegas Golden Knights.

AT&T SportsNet also owns a minority stake in Root Sports Northwest, which carries Seattle Mariners, Seattle Kraken, and Portland Trail Blazers games, as well as Utah Jazz and Las Vegas Golden Knights games in some TV markets. It’s unclear if the decision will impact Root Sports teams.  

Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to exit the business comes in the wake of the financial difficulties plaguing Sinclair’s Diamond Sports.

The parent company of 19 RSNs is heading toward bankruptcy after missing a scheduled debt payment of $140 million. 

Diamond controls the media rights to 42, MLB, NBA, and NHL teams.  

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