alden gonzalezESPN Staff Writer3 minute read
A bankruptcy judge has approved Diamond Sports Group’s request to divest from its contract with the arizona diamondbackswhich prompted Major League Baseball to intervene beginning with the team’s game against the atlanta braves Tuesday afternoon.
As he did when he took over the San Diego Padres‘ In late May, MLB will make D-backs games available without power outages via its streaming service, MLB.TV, and will offer a linear cable option on different channels via Cox, DirecTV , Spectrum and Comcast Xfinity.
A Diamond Sports spokesperson said his contract with the D-backs, a 20-year, $1.5 billion contract that began in 2015, had financial terms that were not aligned with his long-term plans.
In lifting the blackouts, MLB stated that the D-backs’ reach may increase from 930,000 to 5.6 million households in the team’s home television territory. Home fans can pay $19.99 a month or $54.99 for the rest of the season to stream D-backs games; the next six games, through Sunday, will be offered for free through the team’s official website and the MLB app.
MLB will use the same announcers, Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly, and is expected to deploy most of the same behind-the-scenes workers to keep the team’s broadcasts going for the rest of this season.
“This decision provides us with the opportunity to partner with Major League Baseball to produce high-quality broadcasts of D-backs games on current platforms, expand access to include streaming options, and eliminate blackouts that have been a pain point. frustration for fans for years.” D-backs CEO Derrick Hall wrote in a statement. “We have enjoyed our association with Bally Sports Arizona and thank them for the longstanding partnership. But we look forward to providing unprecedented access to our exciting team in the future, including a much greater scope of new homes.”
Diamond Sports Group, the Sinclair subsidiary that does business as Bally Sports, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 14 and has since divested two of its 14 major league teams. . The company wrote in a statement that it anticipates “making all rights payments for the remainder of the MLB teams in our portfolio through the end of this season.”
Diamond Sports initially took on more than $8 billion in debt when it bought regional sports networks for 42 teams in MLB, NBA and NHL in 2019 and struggled to maintain a sustainable business as the rate of cable outages increased in the whole country.
Diamond Sports has continually stated that it needs additional broadcast rights (it owns the broadcast rights to just five of its MLB properties) to shore up its Bally Sports+ app and generate more revenue. MLB, however, has been adamant against giving more rights to a company that jumped at this position in the first place. The league has expressed hope that teams will be paid what they are owed in rights fees, but it also envisions a future, perhaps in the next two or three years, when most, if not all, rights to transmission are operated under a national umbrella. .
The D-backs and Diamond Sports were initially scheduled for a hearing on June 29, but it was delayed two and a half weeks “due to positive and ongoing discussions to find a solution,” Hall and Diamond Sports CEO David wrote. Preschlack, in a statement. statement.
However, at Tuesday’s court hearing, Diamond Sports attorney Andrew Goldman said the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a settlement that would gain the support of the Commissioner’s Office.
MLB promised Bally Sports teams it would halt streaming payments by up to 80% in 2023, but sources said that won’t be the case in 2024, opening up the possibility of several owners losing significant streaming revenue in that moment. In the long term, however, MLB believes that controlling teams’ broadcast rights will be the best way to maximize revenue in an increasingly digital age.
That plan will continue with the D-backs.
“As Major League Baseball has demonstrated with the Padres, we stand ready to produce and distribute games to fans, including Diamondbacks games starting today,” MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden wrote in a statement. “While we are disappointed that Diamond Sports Group has not honored its contractual agreement with another club, we are taking this opportunity to reinvent the distribution model, eliminate blackouts at local games, improve broadcast and expand the reach of games. of the Diamondbacks in 4.7 million homes.