By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
Diamond Sports, the owner of the 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks, next week could forego its broadcast rights to the San Diego Padres by failing to deliver its regular rights payment to the team, according to a new article by Sports Business Journal.
A Texas bankruptcy court judge has set a May 31 hearing to rule on Diamond’s motion to reduce its payments to the teams. (Diamond has the broadcast rights to 14 MLB teams, 16 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams.)
But SBJ writes that Diamond’s final deadline for paying the Padres is May 30 and the company is mulling whether to simply let the broadcast rights expire rather than pay. If Diamond failed to make the payment, the rights would return to the club and MLB.
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Diamond is evaluating which team contracts are profitable and the company could decide to reject the ones it determines are not. The RSN firm has been trying to secure the in-market streaming rights to the 14 MLB teams, which would help offset losses incurred from the operation of the cable/satellite broadcasts. But thus far, it has only obtained the rights to five clubs: the Brewers, Marlins, Rays, Royals and Tigers. (Diamond wants to offer all 14 MLB teams on its Bally Sports Plus app targeted to cord-cutters.)
Of course, it’s possible that Diamond is bluffing and only threatening to forego some broadcast rights to gain leverage in the streaming talks. But MLB has said it’s prepared to do the broadcasts with freelance personnel if Diamond falters. Under that scenario, the games would likely air on cable and satellite, and MLB TV.
Sounds like next week will be a pivotal one for Diamond Sports and Major League Baseball.
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— Phillip Swann