By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman
Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns the three AT&T-named regional sports networks, has agreed to sell AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (the TV home of the Pirates & Penguins) to the Fenway Sports Group, Sports Business Journal reports, adding the deal is expected to close in the next several weeks. FSG, which owns NESN, the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Penguins, among other professional teams, plans to keep the Pittsburgh regional sports network as a traditional cable/satellite channel. This is bad news for cord-cutters who have been hoping that more failing RSNs would take the path of the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Vegas Golden Knights in signing new TV deals with local broadcasters to provide games on free local channels. SBJ does write that the Fenway Sports Group is likely to launch a standalone streaming service for the Pittsburgh channel similar to NESN 360 which offers Boston Red Sox and Bruins games for $29.99 a month.
The SBJ report suggests the Pittsburgh Pirates may not be part of the AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh deal. The team could still return its TV rights back to Major League Baseball which would then take over game broadcasts, as the league did for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks when the RSN company Diamond Sports ended their agreements with those two teams. It’s also possible the Pirates will ultimately stay with the newly-owned regional sports network. Either way, any decision would be made after the current 2023 season.
WBD, which assumed ownership of the AT&T sports channels when it became one company after Discovery merged last year with WarnerMedia, told the leagues earlier this year that it planned to exit the RSN business. The company has been negotiating with various companies and teams to sell the channel and SBJ also reports today that WBD is still discussing deals with the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets to take over AT&T SportsNet Southwest, the TV home of the two teams. But the publication says the company/teams are close to a deal and expect one before the NBA season starts in late October.
It’s unclear what WBD will do with the Colorado Rockies whose games are now carried by AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain. Like the Pirates, the Rockies could send its broadcast rights back to Major League Baseball. However, SBJ writes that Altitude, the TV home of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche, is interested in the Rockies’ rights as a way to persuade Comcast to start carrying it again. The cable operator lost Altitude in 2019 when the carriage agreement expired.
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— Phillip Swann