By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, every time it looks like Diamond is going to lose a team, it doesn’t happen. What’s the deal with them? Will they lose all the rights eventually and MLB takes over or what? — Marty, Madison, Wisconsin.
Marty, Diamond Sports, the owner and operator of the 19 Bally Sports RSNs, this week made its scheduled payment to the Cincinnati Reds, according to ESPN and Sports Business Journal. The payment was made in the ‘grace period,’ meaning Diamond missed its regular deadline for paying the Reds its TV rights fee.
If Diamond, which declared bankruptcy in March, had missed the payment, the Reds could have had legal standing to take back its regional broadcast rights.
But that didn’t happen, as it didn’t happen when Diamond missed its deadline for paying the San Diego Padres several weeks ago. The company again used the grace period to pay up.
And Diamond has missed payments to MLB’s Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Guardians and Arizona Diamondbacks. MLB filed a motion in the bankruptcy court to take back the broadcast rights due to the missed payments. But the judge set a May 31 hearing to first rule on the Diamond request for lower team payments.
If you’re not seeing a trend here, you need glasses. Diamond isn’t going away, folks. Every time the company is cornered, it meets its obligations and keep its broadcast rights. Or it knows it has the protection of the bankruptcy court to ensure that it will not lose those rights.
Diamond has said it intends to continue as a broadcaster of regional sports and, in this case, words and actions speak at the same volume. The company is doing whatever is necessary to keep their TV rights (it says it will take legal action against the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury for not renewing their rights agreement and signing a new deal with Gray Television) and ultimately reduce team payments so the business can become profitable. (Diamond’s Bally Sports broadcasts the games of 14 MLB teams, 12 NHL teams and 16 NBA teams.)
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has spoken often about a scenario where the league takes back the rights and offers them on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Manfred seems to have lost patience with Diamond’s financial maneuvers, and before that, with Sinclair’s executive team. (Sinclair handed off the ownership of the Bally Sports channels to its Diamond Sports unit in the bankruptcy filing.) But for the foreseeable future, the commissioner is stuck with them. Diamond still has the rights and it appears it has the legal mechanism to keep them indefinitely.
Marty, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann