By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, I am so confused about what’s going on with the Bally Sports mess. Will they carry the NBA and NHL this season or not? Are they about to go out of business? Can you please try to clarify all this? — Burke, Atlanta.
Burke, you’re not the only one who’s confused about the status of Diamond Sports, the bankrupt owner of the Bally Sports regional sports networks. The bewildered list includes fans, journalists, creditors and even the teams and leagues themselves. But let me try to provide some up-to-the-minute clarification as reported last night by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
* SBJ writes that Diamond has an “informal” agreement with Comcast to extend their current carriage agreement until February. The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that the companies were still talking while The New York Post reported last Thursday that they had agreed to a one-year deal in “principle.” (Confused yet?) The SJB article would suggest, however, that although the long-term deal is in flux, the carriage arrangement appears safe at least for 4-5 months (October to February). This is important because Diamond Sports needs the Comcast carriage fees to make its regular NBA and NHL team payments with both seasons starting this month.
* DIRECTV’s carriage deal with Diamond Sports will not end until next fall (2024), not the current fall, SBJ writes. There was an earlier assumption that it would end this fall, but the publication says DIRECTV had an out clause in the contract that would have allowed it to renegotiate now. But the out clause also would have required the satcaster to renegotiate the local channel pact for Sinclair so DIRECTV waived it. (Diamond Sports is a subsidiary of Sinclair.) Consequently, Diamond Sports’ deal with DIRECTV appears to be good for another year, again a critical accomplishment for the RSN company at the start of the NBA and NHL seasons.
* Diamond Sports this week should learn whether its bankruptcy court judge will approve its extension for a reorganization plan. If approved, that would give the company another 60 days to finalize the plan.
* Diamond is discussing reduced fee terms with the NBA and NHL but there has been no agreement yet. However, SBJ writes that the leagues expect the fees to be cut if Diamond Sports is able to emerge from bankruptcy without liquidation.
After the three reports (WSJ, New York Post, SBJ), it would appear that Diamond Sports has some breathing room with the NBA and NHL regular seasons just a few weeks away. The company should be able to carry all 15 NBA and 12 NHL teams in its markets without interruption until at least February, if not beyond. The company faces more challenges at that time. Diamond’s carriage deal with Charter is set to expire and the Comcast short-term deal will, too, unless the companies agree on a longer-term pact. But for now, Diamond seems to have dodged the incoming bullets and will continue to operate.
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— Phillip Swann