By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
A Texas bankruptcy court judge yesterday ordered Diamond Sports to pay half of the broadcast rights fees it owes to four Major League Baseball teams with the remainder of the payments to be determined at a May 31 hearing, according to an article by Law360.
Diamond, which owns and operates 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks, declared bankruptcy last month and has filed a motion to reduce its team payments due to shrinking revenues caused by a decline in cable and satellite subscribers.
In the last few weeks, Diamond has missed payments to the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Guardians and Texas Rangers. (The company has the regional TV rights to 14 MLB teams.) However, the Reds situation could be considered separately because the team is a partial stake holder in the Bally Sports Ohio channel, according to Sports Business Journal.
Law360 writes that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher M. Lopez said it would be unfair to the teams to wait until May 31 to receive any payments.
Diamond said it would place the team payments into an account that could not be touched by lender liens pending the May 31 hearing verdict. This would ensure the money would be available to pay the teams once the verdict is reached.
“For the next six weeks, MLB and its clubs will have absolutely no concern that anybody can lien up those amounts,” Andrew N. Goldman of WilmerHale, which is representing Diamond, told the judge, according to Law360. “It was a way to essentially preserve the status quo while not having the teams worry our cash accounts would diminish or the lenders would strip away the funds set aside for their use.”
MLB earlier this month filed a motion to take back the broadcast rights to the teams if payments are not met. The May 31 hearing order put that motion on hold.
League attorneys yesterday did not seem pleased with the judge’s ruling, according to the Law360 account.
“So long as they have the money they purport to have, they should be paying those amounts to MLB and the clubs, and they should be paid currently,” James Bromley of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP said. “Only way it could be something else is if they filed an adversary proceeding seeking relief. They haven’t done it.”
The judge said that if the May 31 hearing finds that Diamond should have to pay less than 50 percent of the payment owed, the teams will return the overages to the company.
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— Phillip Swann