By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, what’s the latest with Bally Sports and Major League Baseball? Will this ever be over? Feels like a Yankees-Red Sox game that will never end! — Maurice, New Rochelle, New York.
Maurice, a Texas bankruptcy court judge has set a May 31 hearing to rule on Diamond Sports’ motion to reduce its payments to the teams it carries on the 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks. (Diamond has the broadcast rights to 14 MLB teams, 16 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams.) For those not familiar, Diamond Sports declared bankruptcy in March, saying that it’s losing money due to shrinking carriage fees caused by declining cable/satellite subscribers.
If you thought the May 31 hearing might be a bit dry, think again. Law360 reports that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is scheduled to testify live which should guarantee some fireworks. The commish has been an outspoken critic of Diamond Sports, and its former corporate parent, Sinclair, saying the company should forego its broadcast rights if it doesn’t pay the teams on time.
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Manfred is likely to make a strong argument that MLB should take over the broadcasts of at least some Bally Sports teams, if not all, and his testimony will undoubtedly trigger an equally strong response from the Diamond Sports legal team.
Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal writes that Diamond’s final deadline for paying the San Diego 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 could return to the club and MLB. The outcome of this dispute on May 30 should weigh heavily on Manfred’s remarks the following day in court.
And there’s more.
SBJ also reports that at least one Bally Sports RSN will cut back on the number of cameras it uses to broadcast the games as Diamond Sports seeks to reduce expenses while in bankruptcy.
“Plans are to shelve a robotic camera and a smaller handheld camera that’s used for crowd shots as a way to save money. Another Bally Sports RSN has tried to cut costs by moving its studio show from outside the stadium to inside,” SBJ’s John Ourand writes. “The idea is to cut back in areas considered nice to have — such as a robotic camera — but continue to invest in areas that are necessary to maintain high-quality productions.”
Mr. Manfred may have a few words to say about that, too.
Happy viewing and stay safe everyone!
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— Phillip Swann