TV Answer Man, is there anything new with the app that Bally Sports will have that will let you order your baseball team without a cable subscription? Will it be this season? — Hank, Phoenix. 

Hank, Sinclair, which owns the 19 Bally Sports regional sports channels, plans to launch a standalone streaming app for them in 2022, hopefully before the start of the next MLB season. The app is expected to  permit you to order your local Bally Sports channel without subscribing to a pay TV service, such as cable or satellite, or even YouTube TV or Hulu Live. (In your case, Hank, you could subscribe directly to the Bally Sports Arizona channel, which airs the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks.)

However, there are two recent developments that are casting doubt on the app’s future even before it starts.

1. Sports Business Journal reported yesterday that two pay TV distributors (they are not named in the story) say they might drop the Bally Sports channels if Sinclair launches the app.

The distribution execs warned that they would consider dropping the RSNs — either through contractual provisions or through expirations of contracts, which typically last three years — if Sinclair moves forward with plans to launch an unauthenticated DTC service that allows people to watch MLB, NBA and NHL games without the need for a pay-TV subscription,” the publication writes.

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Dish already does not carry the Bally Sports channels due to a carriage dispute. The satcaster is expected to resume negotiations for them this summer when its contract with Sinclair for its 100 plus local channels expires. However, Sports Business Journal writes that Dish is unlikely to resume carrying the Bally Sports channels if Sinclair doesn’t back down from its plan to launch the standalone app. (It’s worth noting that Dish does not carry HBO, which is also available via a standalone app, HBO Max.)

It’s unknown if Dish is one of two pay TV distributors telling Sports Business Journal that they might not carry Bally Sports if the app launches. But if several pay TV operators dropped Bally Sports, it’s unlikely Sinclair could generate enough revenue from the app alone to survive. The broadcaster has to pay enormous sums to the leagues for the rights to air the games.

2. The New York Post has reported that Sinclair plans to charge $23 a month for the standalone app.

Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley has denied this report, although he will not say what it will cost. However, news that you would have to pay $23 a month to only watch your local teams play has generated considerable angst among sports fans. Many consumers interested in the app are cord-cutters looking to reduce their expenses. At $23 a month, the Bally Sports app might be too rich for their blood.

With less than 10 months left before the next baseball season, it would seem that Sinclair has considerable work to do before launch. The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if anything changes.

Hank, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann