The MLB season is fast approaching, but with the impending financial demise of Diamond Sports Group, storm clouds are on the horizon for some regional TV markets. A Diamond Sports Group bankruptcy could see MLB take back its regional TV rights and feature more games on MLB Network, the MLB app, and MLB.TV instead of the traditional RSNs that air games.
MLB teams (as well as NHL and NBA teams) that have contracts with Bally Sports regional sports networks, could see a disruption in regular season TV coverage as Diamond Sports, the owner of the Bally Sports RSNs, can’t pay its debts and is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.
Diamond Sports is heavily in debt
Diamond Sports borrowed over 8 billion dollars to purchase the former FOX Sports RSNs from 21st Century FOX in 2019. Once FOX Sports RSNs they were named after the Bally’s Casino chains (not really a great message for our kids). However, the carriage fees Diamond Sports charges cable and streaming services to feature the Bally Sports RSNs don’t cover its interest payments on the debt it used to finance the purchase of the RSNs in the first place.
The end of MLB blackouts?
The result: Diamond Sports can’t pay the MLB teams it features on its networks the millions in fees they are owed for local TV rights. If Diamond Sports can’t pay its featured teams it will no longer have the regional TV rights that form the foundation of all the in-market vs. out-of-market viewing rules you see with pro sports. This could be good news for MLB fans as most baseball blackouts are caused by the enforcement of TV contracts with the various RSNs. If MLB took back its TV rights and aired games formerly owned by Diamond Sports, presumably the games would air nationwide on MLB Network.
Should Diamond Sports enter into bankruptcy, MLB will step up and take over the TV rights for its affected franchises. This means airing games on MLB Network and removing regional restrictions on local games.
What comes next is anyone’s guess, but it’s safe to say that a bankruptcy filing by Diamond Sports would mean they could no longer air MLB games under the current arrangement.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has promised that Diamond Sport’s woes won’t impact MLB fans for the 2023 season.
We are prepared no matter what happens with respect to Diamond to make sure that games are available to fans in their local markets.Rob Manfred comment to espn about a potential diamond sports group bankruptcy
14 MLB Teams Impacted by Diamond Sports Group Bankruptcy
Here are the 14 MLB teams that may have their regular season coverage shift to MLB Network and MLB.TV this season:
Which live TV streaming services carry MLB Network?
As a practical matter, even if Diamond Sports loses its rights to air regional MLB games, the transition for most fans will be easy because the streaming services that carry Bally Sports RSNs also carry MLB Network.
For example, fuboTV and DIRECTV STREAM carry all the Bally Sports RSNs and also feature MLB Network.
The big winner here is Sling TV which doesn’t carry any RSNs but may be able to offer a ton more value for MLB fans in Bally Sports markets with MLB Network in their Sports Extra add-on.
A Note on the Yankees
Although Sinclair Broadcasting (parent of Diamond Sports) is a part owner of YES Network, the NY Yankees broadcast on YES Network will not be impacted by the impending Diamond Sports bankruptcy. YES is majority owned by the Yankees and Amazon also owns a piece of the network, YES will be just fine.