By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, what is your honest take on whether DIRECTV will keep the Bally Sports channels. I have stayed with DIRECTV for many years but if they lose Bally Sports South and the Braves, I think that’s it. I need to watch my Braves. — Don, Smyrna, Georgia.
Don, that is a great question and one that is being asked throughout the TV and sports industries. Diamond Sports, which owns the Bally Sports channels, declared bankruptcy last March and it attempting to reorganize as a profitable company. As part of that process, Diamond has been assessing which team contracts to keep based on their financial potential and other factors. As of now, the Bally Sports channels still have the rights to 15 NBA teams, 12 NHL teams and 12 MLB teams. (Diamond this year ended their agreements with the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks.) To make matters even more complicated, Diamond this fall must negotiate the renewal of their carriage deals with two of the three top TV providers, DIRECTV and Comcast, which combined have more than 25 million subscribers nationwide. And the company’s contract with Charter’s Spectrum TV, the third in that trio of top providers, is set to expire early next year.
Diamond’s unique and fragile position makes the DIRECTV and Comcast negotiations unlike any other in recent history. The company needs the two TV services on board to have enough revenue to pay the teams for their broadcast rights. But the two TV providers likely have doubts that Diamond will be able to keep all of its team rights due to the company already exiting the Padres and Diamondbacks deals and opting out of a renewal clause with the Phoenix Suns. DIRECTV’s uncertainty about Diamond could be even greater than Comcast’s because the satcaster has raised objections in Diamond bankruptcy court motions about the RSN company’s failure to rebate fees paid for Padres and Diamondbacks games that didn’t air after the contracts were terminated.
It’s just a one big mess. But despite the complications, I think DIRECTV and Diamond will sign a new agreement before the current one expires at the end of next month. The TV provider has made sports, particularly regional sports, a major part of its marketing effort and the loss of the Bally Sports channels would seriously hurt that effort. Consequently, I think DIRECTV is receptive to working with Diamond to craft a new agreement that would allow it keep carrying Bally Sports but protect it financially in case the RSN company isn’t able to continue carrying its current lineup of teams.
Don, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann