By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

Diamond Sports, which declared bankruptcy in March, yesterday filed a motion in court to extend its deadline for submitting a bankruptcy plan by 120 days. The motion contains some interesting new revelations on the company’s behind-the-scenes efforts to retain broadcasting agreements with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns and other NBA and NHL teams.

* Diamond Sports says it’s in “constructive discussions” with the Arizona Diamondbacks to continue its broadcasting agreement with the MLB team. The company last month filed a motion to drop its contract with the Diamondbacks. But a week later, it filed a new motion to postpone a June 30 hearing on that request until July 17.

“(Diamond Sports) and the Diamondbacks have been engaged in constructive discussions on potential consensual paths forward to resolve the motion. Accordingly, the parties agreed to adjourn the hearing on the
motion to allow these positive discussions to continue. If the parties are unable to reach a consensual solution, the Debtors (Diamond Sports) are prepared to proceed with the rejection motion, which remains pending as of the date of this motion,” yesterday’s motion states.

The New York Post reported this week that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, a frequent critic of Diamond Sports, is threatening to veto a new deal with the Diamondbacks because it would be more favorable to the RSN (regional sports networks) company.

* Diamond Sports, which has 18 Bally Sports regional sports networks, says it’s negotiating with NBA, NHL and MLB teams to establish “go-forward relationships,” suggesting new agreements that could reduce the company’s rights fees. The RSN firm has maintained for months that it needs to reduce its team payments because it is now receiving smaller carriage fees from pay TV operators due to cord-cutting. (Cable and satellite providers pay Diamond Sports, and other program suppliers, by the number of subscribers who have access to their channels. However, over the last several years, cord cutting has reduced the number of subscribers.)

* Diamond Sports says broadcasting deals with three NBA and NHL teams will expire before the end of February 2024. The company wants more time to prepare a bankruptcy plan because it’s unclear if the three agreements will continue.

“Timing is critical to the (Diamond Sports’) ability to achieve these goals: the new NBA and NHL seasons will begin in the fall, and three of the (Diamond Sports) distribution agreements, which collectively provide the substantial majority of the Debtors’ distribution revenue, will be up for renewal before the end of February 2024,” the motion says.

* Diamond Sports says it’s in negotiations with the Phoenix Suns to possibly resume their agreement. The Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury announced in late April that they had signed an agreement with Gray Television to broadcast their entire regular seasons on local Arizona TV channels starting with the 2023-23 season.

However, Diamond Sports filed suit to block the Suns part of the Gray deal. The company alleged that its contract with the Suns to carry its games on Bally Sports Arizona gave it the right of first refusal, meaning it could match any offer another company made for the Suns’ rights after its contract with the team expired. Diamond said the Suns did not allow it to match the Gray offer, which the company said violates bankruptcy law and damages its effort to reorganize.

The bankruptcy court judge in May blocked the Suns/Gray deal and ordered the companies to negotiate a resolution.

“Since the Court’s ruling, (Diamond Sports) and the Suns have been engaged in the backend rights process as set forth in the parties’ existing contract, and that process is continuing at this time. (Diamond Sports) will continue to evaluate and protect their rights as needed while they determine a value-maximizing path forward for their business,” the company says in yesterday’s motion.

Diamond Sports also has a payment due on July 15 to the Cincinnati Reds, but it does not mention the MLB team in the new motion.

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— Phillip Swann