By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, do you think the AT&T regional sports channels will stop doing games in 2023? Would that mean the Pirates games wouldn’t be available on TV or would they just be on MLB TV? Would there be blackouts? Can you shed some light on this thing? — Tony, Pittsburgh.

Tony, Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns the three AT&T-named RSNs, told the leagues in February that 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.)

Warner Bros. Discovery suggested that it wanted to jettison the RSN business as early as the end of March, according to multiple news reports.

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However, it appears that WBD has decided to take a less confrontational approach to entangle itself from the escalating RSN crisis, certainly less confrontational than Diamond Sports. There’s a new report from Sports Business Journal that WBD is likely to continue broadcasting the games throughout the 2023 MLB season while it negotiates returning the TV rights to the teams.

“WBD still has not reached a deal with those teams. But sources say they are close to an agreement that will see WBD exit the business by the end of baseball season,” writes SBJ’s John Ourand. “The deals being discussed would have WBD continue to pay its rights fees and produce/distribute games for the entire season. At the end of the season, WBD would walk away, and the rights would revert back to the teams.”

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This would be good news for fans who have worried that the 2023 game broadcasts could fall into a limbo period when no one is doing them. The SBJ report suggests there should be no concerns about the current season.

The publication adds that the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets are likely to take over AT&T SportsNet Houston and broadcast the games starting next season. The Houston Chronicle has reported that the company is negotiating with the Astros and Rockets for the teams to take back the broadcast rights.

But MLB might be forced to take over production of the Rockies and Pirates games in 2024, SBJ writes. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said the league is prepared to do the games if either Diamond Sports or AT&T do not.

As for Root Sports, the RSN which does the Seattle Mariners games, SBJ says no changes are expected. Warner Bros. Discovery is likely to retain its 30 percent stake in the network, which is majority controlled by the Mariners.

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— Phillip Swann