TV Answer Man, I read your article about the Bally Sports streaming app for cord cutters. I think $20 a month would be fine because it beats getting DIRECTV Stream for $90 a month, doesn’t it? I get DIRECTV Stream because it’s only way I can watch the Bally Sports San Diego channel for the San Diego Padres. I will save $70 when the app comes out. — Todd, San Diego. 

Todd, as you know, Sinclair, the owner of the 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs), says it plans to launch an app by next month that will allow fans to subscribe directly to their in-market Bally Sports channel without a subscription to a pay TV service such as cable, satellite or a live streaming provider. (DIRECTV Stream is the only live streamer that carries Bally Sports.)

Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley revealed last week in a first quarter earnings call that the monthly price for the ‘cord-cutter app’ will be $19.99 while the annual price will be $189.99.

If you are a sports fan, and you only care about watching your home team as cheaply as possible, the Bally Sports app would seem to be a dream come true. A subscription to cable or satellite, or DIRECTV Stream, can cost close to $100 a month. (DIRECTV Stream only carries Bally Sports in plans that start at $89.99 a month.) As you note, Todd, you could save at least $70 a month by just subscribing to the Bally Sports app.

However, there could be a catch.

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Sinclair has the regional pay TV rights to 14 MLB teams, but it says it only has secured the streaming rights to five of those teams. The company has not formally announced which ones, but they appear to be the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays based on local news reports.

That means that Sinclair does not have commitments for nine other teams , including your Padres, Todd. (The nine missing teams are the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Guardians, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Angels.)

Ripley says the initial launch next month will likely only include the five teams, not all 14. He hopes to secure more deals by the fall when it adds 12 NHL teams and 16 NBA teams to the app. (Unlike MLB, Sinclair has obtained the streaming rights for the pro hockey and basketball teams it carries on Bally Sports.) But until Sinclair gets more deals, most baseball fans in the Bally Sports markets will be shut out. The cord-cutting app will be worthless to fans of the missing teams because the games will not be available.

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Sinclair, which has invested heavily in the app, is under great pressure to sign up the remaining teams, but MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be playing hardball.

“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 in 2021, according to a Sports Business Journal article.

The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if anything significant changes.

Until then, happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann