Another Provider Wants to Exit the RSN Space, Meaning MLB Could Take Back Even More Local Streaming Rights
Major news tonight in the ongoing Regional Sports Network storylines, as a totally different provider – not Diamond Holdings, which is sucking up most of the oxygen – enters the fray.
Actually, exits the fray would be the more accurate description:
Warner Brothers Discovery, which operates the AT&T branded RSNs, is getting out of the business one way or another. I suspect Major League Baseball is going to jump on this opportunity to get the broadcast rights back for the four impacted teams, and if the Diamond Holdings bankruptcy goes forward, then MLB may also be able to get the rights back for another 14 of its teams (the Bally RSNs).
If MLB has the broadcast rights back for 18 of its 30 teams, that might embolden them enough to try to get back some of the remaining rights, or at least figure out a financially-acceptable way to get those teams’ RSNs to bundle up their rights (for example, a team like the Cubs and an RSN like Marquee, which are not in trouble financially, would have to be enticed to make their games available on a national platform). In other words, Rob Manfred’s vision of having all games available in all locations to all fans – you just pay a fee to MLB, and you can stream whatever games you want, without blackouts – could come sooner than we might otherwise be thinking.
As it stands now, we are staring at the very real possibility that MLB takes over the broadcasting rights and duties for 18 of its teams as soon as THIS season. Manfred suggested that the way this would work is that MLB, itself, would produce the games (what an undertaking to build out so quickly), and the games would be sold to local cable providers if possible, while also being made available via MLB.tv locally. Historically, MLB.tv is only for OUT-of-market games, but if MLB holds the local rights, they can make those games available in-market, too. Again, just for the would-be 18 teams at issue (the four named above, plus the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers).
Oh, also, while this sorts itself out, the financial hit to the impacted 14/18 teams could be significant. Not necessarily massive or permanent, but at least a temporary interruption of their previously-expected RSN payments.