MLB could offer free streaming if it takes TV rights from Bally Sports

Mar 13, 2023, 1:04 PM
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions during an MLB owner's meeting at t...
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions during an MLB owner's meeting at the Waldorf Astoria on February 10, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball will aim for fans to stream games for free if Diamond Sports Group, which operates Bally Sports regional television stations, loses its rights to broadcast, according to the New York Post.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are among the four or more teams that Diamond could lose as it’s expected to file for bankruptcy by Friday. Those teams are taking more in rights fees than Diamond is making from cable contracts and ads.

The teams in the red include the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, according to one of the sources. Presently, Diamond stands to lose $20 million annually on San Diego alone, the source added.

MLB has plans to stream some teams’ games for free within their local markets until cable companies re-work contracts with the league, according to the Post. Through what medium the games would stream is not yet decided.

Even if MLB reaches deals with cable providers, it will still offer the over-the-top service for around $15 a month, the source added.

The Post reports that MLB attempted to acquire the rights of the 14 baseball markets in Bally’s 19 regional TV networks, but Diamond declined the offer.

It was reported Friday that the D-backs are the only team that has not been paid its rights fee from Diamond on time.

“We’ve been making our rights payments to teams with the exception of the Diamondbacks, where we have exercised a contractual grace period in order to maximize flexibility, especially given that we do not have DTC rights,” Diamond confirmed to the Sports Business Journal. “We are continuing to broadcast games and are operating our business as usual.”

Diamond has not paid the D-backs because there is a grace period that ends on midnight this Thursday. The deal between the company and Arizona is extremely team-friendly in comparison to other clubs. It runs through 2035, according to the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand.

If Diamond does not pay the Diamondbacks by next week, it is not expected to impact Valley fans watching games immediately, according to Ourand. MLB would begin fighting to take on the rights through bankruptcy court if that occurred.

During that time, Ourand’s sources indicate Bally Sports Arizona will continue producing the games for TV so it can keep being paid by cable and satellite distributors.

Bally Sports Arizona is expected to continue broadcasting Phoenix Suns and Arizona Coyotes games through the end of the teams’ regular seasons next month, according to the Post.

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