REPORT: MLB Could Stream Games in Some Markets for Free This Year (UPDATE: Bankruptcy Arrives)
What do you do when the regional sports network group that is supposed to broadcast your games this year goes poof? You just go ahead and stream the games to everyone for free!
That’s a little reductive – the situation with Bally Sports, Diamond Sports Holdings, and Major League Baseball is quite a bit more complicated than that – but it’s apparently the gist for a handful of teams:
In essence, what would happen here is that *IF* Diamond goes into bankruptcy, as expected, and IF they reject their broadcast rights contracts with the Bally teams (i.e., if they don’t pay rights fees), then MLB is going to just broadcast/stream those games locally on its own, and probably try to recoup some of the lost money for the teams via ads. That, until and unless it can figure out how to make its own local carriage arrangement. Much more in the report at the New York Post.
Right now, only those four named teams are being reported as in this situation by the NY Post. But the Bally RSNs cover 14 MLB teams (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), and it’s possible a Diamond bankruptcy could cause disruptions for them as well. It’s also possible that, in some of those cases, the revenue generated by the deals is still more than Diamond is paying out in rights fees, so the contracts might continue.
Recall, AT&T has also indicated it wants to exit the space, calling into question the broadcast future for four additional MLB teams (the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, and Seattle Mariners).
The situation is a terrible mess overall right now, but longer term, there could be some upside here if MLB is able to take over the rights for a majority of its teams, and then finally do away with the blackout problem. And shorter term, it’s possible this could be a bit of a boon to fans in the affected markets if it means they suddenly get to stream local games for free!
Stay tuned on this one. Diamond could file for bankruptcy as soon as this week, and that’s when the process of figuring out new ways to broadcast locally for some number of teams will begin.
UPDATE: The bankruptcy has arrived:
Where do things go from here? Well, there will be a process of Diamond working with its creditors to try to decide where deals can be made, where contracts need to be rejected, and where some folks are going to take a haircut. It’ll take a longggg time to sort out.
Meanwhile, some of the Bally RSNs will keep on keeping on like normal, because if they are cashflow positive deals, then everyone involved in the bankruptcy process will want them to continue. But the ones that are underwater – like the ones mentioned above – could present problems. They could be rejected/ended, and that’s when MLB has said it will step in to take over those broadcast operations while trying to find other ways to broadcast locally.
Bigger picture, MLB wants to take back the rights for all 14 of the teams that currently have agreements with Bally/Diamond (and probably the 4 with AT&T, too) so that it can create a local blackout-free streaming product of its own. That, too, will take a longggg time to sort out.