By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man, @tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, I am puzzled by something. Manfred says MLB will broadcast the games if Bally Sports does not. How on earth will they broadcast all those games?!! Do they have a secret army in New York with cameras and production trucks ready to spring into action? — Carl, Milwaukee.
Carl, that’s a great question. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has repeatedly said the league is prepared to take over the Bally Sports broadcasts if Diamond Sports, which runs Bally Sports, declares bankruptcy and defaults on payments to the teams.
Well, Diamond Sports has now declared bankruptcy and has missed a payment to at least one team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The New York Post reports that Diamond could skip payments to other teams as well, including the Cleveland Guardians, San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds. The Texas Rangers have also said they are ready to dump Diamond if necessary.
In addition, Warner Bros Discovery supposedly has told the league that it doesn’t plan to continue broadcasts of its three AT&T-named RSNs, perhaps as early as month’s end.
If you’re counting along at home, that could mean the league would be the principal broadcaster of at least eight teams. And possibly sooner than later. That’s a lot of trucks, people and production equipment to sling around. Plus, the league would have to negotiate new carriage contracts with pay TV operators.
Manfred has said the league is prepared for this because it owns MLB Network, which has its own production team. However, MLB Network’s production team has been built to handle a single game from now and then. Could the league suddenly develop the resources to handle every game of eight teams?
This is obviously a dubious proposition and one reason why I think Manfred is more inclined to work with Diamond Sports to find an equitable solution than he has suggested in public. The NBA and NHL have signaled they will work with Diamond, which seems like the wise thing to do now. While Manfred might want to play hardball in public as a negotiating tactic, he might be more receptive to new financial arrangements with Diamond in private, similar to what the NBA and NHL seem to be doing.
Of course, it’s possible the league is negotiating with another company or companies to take over some of the broadcast rights, such as Scripps which has signaled some interest in expanding its live sports unit. But for now, the question of who would do the RSN broadcasts if Bally and Warner Bros. Discovery bail is a good one.
Carl, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann