TV Answer Man, I am totally confused by all the stuff going on with the regional sports channels. It’s worse than the Silicon Valley Bank thing!! I heard that some games could be free if the channels fall apart. Is that true? — Marcus, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Marcus, Bally Sports’ operating unit, Diamond Sports, may be headed for bankruptcy this week while Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns and operates three AT&T-named RSNs (and has a minority stake in Root Sports), says it wants to exit the business and return the broadcast rights back to the teams/leagues. The two developments have everyone confused, from fans to league executives.
The latest twist comes from The New York Post which reported yesterday that Major League Baseball is prepared to offer at least four teams for free if the RSNs stop broadcasting their games by opening day (March 30). The teams: Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Under the current agreements, Diamond Sports is losing money on those teams and the Post writes that Diamond might opt to essentially void their contracts in bankruptcy court. That would give the league the opportunity to retake the rights and offer the games via MLB.TV. However, until the league negotiated new carriage contracts with cable and satellite operators, it’s contemplating providing the games for free.
“Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred will have the league take over the local broadcasts of the money-losing teams and stream them for free in their respective local markets as he negotiates with their cable companies for lower contracts, a source with knowledge of the discussions said,” the Post states.
It appears that Diamond plans to continue broadcasting games for the remaining MLB teams in its territories as well as all NBA and NHL teams for the close of the 2022-23 seasons.
The situation gets even more complicated when the AT&T channels enter the discussion. The Post writes that MLB is not prepared to provide those games by opening day and it’s unclear if Warner Bros. Discovery will continue broadcasting then and beyond.
Bottom line: The two situations are highly fluid and much could change by opening day. But for now, MLB appears ready to consider any and all methods to keep fans from missing a single pitch, including the elimination of blackouts and free baseball.
Marcus, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann