By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man, @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, I keep reading about the regional sports networks being in trouble. But does that mean all of them? For example, is Marquee ready to go bankrupt in my area in Chicago? Will that mean no Cubs games on TV or something different? — Vic, Evanston, Illinois.

Vic, that’s a great question. With so much discussion over the financial issues plaguing regional sports networks, it would be easy to assume that all RSNs are in peril. But as of now, that does not appear to be the case. Here’s what we know.

Diamond Sports, which runs the 19 Bally Sports channels, has declared bankruptcy and is seeking to restructure the company with new financial arrangements with MLB, NHL and the NBA and their teams. We know that Diamond has already missed a payment to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Post has reported it could skip payments to the Cleveland Guardians, Cincinnati Reds, and San Diego Padres as well.

However, it’s unclear if that means Bally will stop doing their games at some point and MLB would take over the broadcasts. (The NBA and NHL seem inclined to work with Diamond to ensure the company continues doing the games while MLB has been more contentious.) As of now, Bally Sports is the broadcaster for all 14 MLB teams it holds the rights to and it likely will be on opening day (March 30), if not throughout the season.

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Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns the three AT&T-named RSNs, has said it no longer wants to broadcast their games. (The three channels broadcast the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, and Colorado Rockies.)

We don’t know if it’s because the channels are unprofitable or simply not in keeping with a bigger strategy under new management. (Warner Bros. Discovery is now run by the cost-cutting CEO, David Zaslav, following a merger between Warner Media and Discovery.) We also don’t know if this season’s MLB broadcasts will be affected. But with the season starting in nine days, it would appear that the AT&T channels will stay in place at least for now. (Again, this does not seem to be an imminent issue for the NBA and NHL seasons since their regular season ends in less than a month.)

There is no indication at this time that any other regional sports network is facing a similar financial crisis. However, it’s possible that serious issues are just below the surface for the same reason Bally and Warner Bros. Discovery are taking action — reduced carriage fees due to pay TV cord-cutting.

Nationals Park, the home of the Washington Nationals.

For example, MASN, the TV home of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, has been engaged in a several-year legal dispute with the Nationals over rights fees. The legal skirmish combined with lower carriage fees is undoubtedly taking a huge toll on the channel’s bottom line. If it were to lose the Nationals case, it would be easy to envision that a bankruptcy filing would follow.

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Other RSNs are likely carefully evaluating whether they need new financial arrangements as well since they are affected by the same carriage fee reduction. Their payments to the teams and leagues have not decreased but their revenue has. If Diamond is successful in restructuring its deals, we might soon see a game of ‘me too’ with its RSN counterparts.

But even if that occurs, it doesn’t seem likely to affect this season’s games. 2024 could be a different story, though.

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

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— Phillip Swann