TV Answer Man, I’ve been waiting for Bally Sports to start an app that would let you subscribe without having to get a cable or satellite or a streaming subscription like Hulu or YouTube TV. But I heard their plans for the app is in trouble. Is that true? — Juan, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Juan, Sinclair, which owns the 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs), has said it plans to launch a streaming app in 2022 that would enable fans to subscribe to their in-market NBA, NHL and MLB games without needing a pay TV subscription.
The company has not revealed pricing details (although one report suggests it could be more than $20 a month) or exactly when the app would be available. But Sinclair executives have said they hope to offer it prior to the 2022 Major League Baseball season.
But just a minute, says MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Baseball’s top executive this week said Sinclair currently does not have rights to offer his league’s teams in a standalone streaming app.
“We’ve been very clear with them from the beginning that we see both those sets of rights as extraordinarily valuable to baseball, and we’re not just going to throw them in to help Sinclair out,” Manfred told a sports conference, according to a Sports Business Journal article.
Not only that, Manfred inferred that Sinclair’s subsidiary, Diamond Sports Group, which manages the RSNs, may have too many financial issues to successfully obtain the streaming rights. The subsidiary has a significant debt problem and could be headed for bankruptcy, some industry analysts say.
The commissioner also said the league would likely require a significant ownership stake in any streaming venture.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later piled on at the conference with a comment noting that Diamond is having serious financial issues. He did say, however, that the league is trying to work with Sinclair to improve the situation.
It’s rare for a sports commissioner to be so open about the troubles facing a partner such as Sinclair which pays an enormous amount of money for the rights to games. But when two commissioners do it in the same day, well, it doesn’t bode well for Sinclair’s plan for a standalone app.
It could still happen, but it appears that Sinclair will need some ninth inning magic to persuade Manfred and Silver that it’s in their best interest.
Juan, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann