Cleveland Guardians and MLB mixed up with sinking ship that is Bally Sports
Diamond Sports Group, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting (a company known for questionable decisions) and the entity that operates Bally Sports, is a hot mess, fast on the path to bankruptcy.
According to reports from Bloomberg, Diamond Sports is looking to some way, somehow, restructure $8.6 billion of debt. And this is some big news for 14 major-league teams that have a regional sports network contract with Bally Sports. Furthermore, Diamond Sports owes some $2 billion in license fees to the the teams and league. And yet, Bloomberg also reports that as of September, Diamond Sports had a mere $585 million cash in hand.
Of that $2 billion, the Guardians are owed roughly $50 million, a substantial amount for any mid-market team. It's also worth noting that the Guardians' contract with Diamond Sports runs until 2027; I doubt it lasts until then but it should be worth noting. We'll have to see how that gets resolved but it's likely going to be messy.
From the start, Bally Sports was behind the eight ball. Sling TV and Dish Network dropped the channels in 2019, while fuboTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live all dropped the service in 2020, when they refused to negotiate with the delusional powers that be at Diamond Sports.
However, after seeing their service removed from many streaming services, Sinclair announced it would just start its own app. And while Bally Sports+ did finally launch late last year, industry insiders have said that the $19.99/month fee has kept many fans from purchasing the service.
All of this comes at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for MLB to attract and retain young fans. Getting more kids to pick up the game, watch, and attend is the only way the sport can grow. Yet, it may soon prove to be even more difficult for the teams in these 14 markets. That is, unless Rob Manfred and company actually are proactive and get out in front of this, like today.
There could be some good news on the horizon, though. Billy Chambers, a former Fox Sports and Diamond Sports executive, has been hired by MLB to become the Executive Vice President for Local Media. This could suggest that Diamond Sports is exploring the possibility of some form of a rights-sharing deal. Bloomberg reported that Diamond Sports is open to “bringing in teams and leagues as equity partners.” There were whispers months back that MLB and the NBA and NHL may even purchase the carcass that will be Bally Sports.
All of this sort of makes you long for the days of SportsTime Ohio, doesn't it?