By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, I’m wondering if the Twins and other baseball teams that lose their regional sports networks could go on free local TV like the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns did. Do you see that happening if the contracts are voided? — Mark, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Mark, as you note, the Utah Jazz announced yesterday that it has signed a new TV deal with a local Utah station to air all non-nationally televised games for free, starting with the 2023-24 season. The NBA team will no longer be on a regional sports network which requires a subscription to a cable, satellite or multi-channel live streaming service.
Utah’s move to free over-the-air local television follows similar moves by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. (The Suns’ TV deal with local broadcaster Gray Television is being challenged in court by Diamond Sports, the owner of the Bally Sports regional sports networks.)
Now, let’s look at how this could affect Major League Baseball.
Diamond Sports, which declared bankruptcy in March, is assessing whether to continue broadcasting four MLB teams on its Bally Sports regional sports networks. On July 1, the company has payments due to the Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondback and Cleveland Guardians. On July 15, Diamond Sports must pay its quarterly rights fee to the Cincinnati Reds.
It’s possible that the RSN company could decide to drop one or more teams. If that occurred, the team(s) would then have the right to sign a new TV deal with anyone, including a local broadcaster, such as the Suns, Golden Knights and Jazz have done.
However, there’s one problem with that happening anytime soon. We’re in the middle of the 2023 MLB season. The teams and Major League Baseball do not want to miss broadcasting a single game so there would be no time to negotiate and implement a new deal with a local station. Instead, MLB would take over the broadcasts immediately after Diamond Sports pulled the plug, as it did in May when the RSN company rejected its agreement with the San Diego Padres.
It’s certainly possible that one or more teams, and MLB, could consider a local TV solution after the season ends, but it’s highly unlikely that it will happen before that.
Mark, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann