By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
Diamond Sports, the owner and operating unit for the 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks, has missed its regular payment to both the Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins, according to a new report from Sports Business Journal.
That doesn’t mean that Diamond has lost the rights to broadcast the games of the two AL Central teams. However, if the payments are not made (without penalty) during a 15-day grace period, Major League Baseball could try to take back the rights in court.
That could lead to MLB showing the games on MLB TV without blackouts and seeking new carriage deals with pay TV distributors. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has promised that fans will not lose game broadcasts even if Diamond stops airing them.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported on Saturday that Diamond, which declared bankruptcy last month, was ‘unlikely’ to make the Guardians payment.
Diamond could be using the missed payments as leverage to negotiate new deals which could include lower fees and streaming rights for its Bally Sports Plus cord-cutter service. To date, Diamond only has the Plus streaming rights to five of its 14 MLB teams: Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays.
However, it’s unclear if the company is prepared to lose the rights to the Twins and Guardians if it cannot get better deals. (Diamond has also missed a payment to the Arizona Diamondbacks but that is not expected to affect its rights because it’s part of the bankruptcy filing.)
Sports Business Journal writes that Diamond has made payments on time to eight other teams in the past week: Angels, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Marlins, Rays, Royals and Tigers. The publication notes that’s a likely indication that it wants to continue operating as a serious regional sports network unit.
In addition, the San Diego Padres has said publicly that it has received its payment from Diamond.
SBJ reports that the next payments due are to the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds. The Reds’ payment is unlikely to be paid on time, the publication says, while the Rangers situation is unclear.
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— Phillip Swann