By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
As Major League Baseball enters what could be the most important week yet in the Diamond Sports bankruptcy fight, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred just offered some fresh remarks on what could happen if the regional sports network company stops broadcasting the games of 14 MLB teams.
The Milwaukee Business Journal reports that Manfred reiterated last week at a press conference in Milwaukee that the league is prepared to broadcast the games if Diamond falters. However, Manfred, which has been openly critical of Diamond Sports’ management, and the management of its former corporate parent, Sinclair, expressed hope that Diamond will resolve its issues and stay on as a league partner, at least for now.
“I hope Diamond decides to live up to its contractual obligation to the (Milwaukee) Brewers and broadcast the games,” Manfred said in response to a specific question about the Brewers broadcasts on Bally Sports Wisconsin. “But if they don’t, we will step in and the games will be available both linear (cable) and digital.”
Sports Business Journal writes that Diamond’s final deadline for paying the San Diego Padres is today (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. It also could signal that Diamond is prepared to jettison the rights of other unprofitable teams.
A Texas bankruptcy court judge has set a Wednesday (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.) Diamond Sports declared bankruptcy in March, saying that it’s losing money due to shrinking carriage fees caused by declining cable/satellite subscribers.
MLB is leading the fight against the Diamond motion, arguing that the company should honor its contracts. The issue is clearly high on Manfred’s priority list as the commissioner is planning to testify live at Wednesday’s hearing, according to Law36o.
“I’m concerned about the RSN situation,” Manfred told reporters in Milwaukee, according to Milwaukee Business Journal. “We have 14 teams including the Brewers involved in the Diamond bankruptcy.”
MBJ writes that Manfred said he spends “a lot of time” on the matter.
While Manfred has suggested that the league could expand the home viewing audience by broadcasting the games itself, the commissioner would likely welcome Diamond meeting its current contract obligations. This would allow the 14 MLB teams to continue operating without any revenue reduction.
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— Phillip Swann