By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, we have Comcast and you wrote about whether Comcast would keep the Bally Sports channels awhile back. Do you know when this will get all settled so we know? — Marty, St. Paul.
Marty, Sports Business Journal reported last night that Diamond Sports, the owner of the Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs), is now negotiating with Comcast for a new carriage agreement. Why now? Because the current pact is set to expire by week’s end, SBJ writes. It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of Diamond Sports getting a new carriage pact with Comcast. The RSN company, which declared bankruptcy last March, is attempting to reorganize as a profitable unit. However, if it fails to secure a new deal with the nation’s largest cable TV operator, the company’s creditors could seek to stop Diamond from making its regular payments for the broadcast rights to 15 NBA and 12 NHL teams. That in turn would force the teams to seek an end to their deals with Diamond with motions in bankruptcy court, as the NHL has already threatened to do.
While Diamond has carriage deals coming up next month for DIRECTV, and early next year for Charter, the failure to land a Comcast agreement could soon lead to the demise of the company because of the timing. Further complicating matters for Diamond: SBJ writes that the company’s deadline for negotiating a restructuring plan with the creditors is this Saturday.
“I would characterize it right now not necessarily as a black cloud, but a gray cloud hanging over us, without a doubt,’’ SBN quotes Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, whose next Diamond Sports payment is due November 1. “We’re all sort of sitting anxiously to see what happens with the Bally bankruptcy.’’
Diamond’s dependence on renewing the Comcast agreement is fraught with danger. Unlike DIRECTV, Comcast has not made live sports an integral part of its marketing effort. DIRECTV, which carries nearly every RSN, will often run commercials targeted exclusively to sports fans. Comcast, however, tends to produce more general marketing campaigns that would appeal to all potential customers, not just sports enthusiasts. Not surprisingly, the cable operator has acted accordingly, allowing carriage agreements with MSG (TV home of the New York Knicks and other area teams) and Altitude (TV home of the Denver Rockets, Colorado Avalanche) to expire in recent years. Comcast is not dependent on carrying sports channels, such as Bally Sports.
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— Phillip Swann