Will Bally Sports+ Add More MLB Teams to Make Subscription Worth the Price?
After more than a year of build-up, on Wednesday as part of Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s first-quarter 2022 earnings call, the company finally announced the pricing for their upcoming direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports app, which will apparently be called Bally Sports+ according to Sinclair’s president and CEO Chris Ripley.
The service is still scheduled to soft launch later this quarter focused on the five Major League Baseball teams (Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Miami, and Detroit) that Sinclair owns the streaming rights for, before launching in earnest this fall with their larger complement of NBA and NHL offerings with 16 and 12 teams respectively. Sinclair announced that the service will cost $189.99 annually or $19.99 per month.
Currently, Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs) are only available to stream on DIRECTV STREAM as part of their $89.99 per month Choice Plan. Over the last two years, the channels were dropped by YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu, and fuboTV, making the DTC app a valuable option for fans, at least in theory.
When it comes to making a sports streaming service worth the price of a subscription — especially on an annual basis — baseball is an important component given the sheer volume of games available and the fact that it bridges the summer months when other sports are in their offseasons. So, naturally, analysts and fans alike are concerned by the relative lack of MLB teams signed up to stream with Bally Sports+.
With only 5 MLB teams currently on-board with the service, what is the likelihood that others will join the fray?
Through Sinclair’s joint-venture with the Chicago Cubs, they have the rights to launch Marquee Sports Network DTC, but that company has its own streaming app and likely would be a standalone option outside of the Bally Sports+ subscription.
During Wednesday’s investors’ call, Ripley said that Sinclair is in talks with other teams, but given that they are currently in season and the soft launch is presumably imminent, it is not a pressing concern to add more franchises immediately.
“We have been successful in getting off-renewal additions,” he said. “We had one in January, Marquee has also secured its direct-to-consumer rights. And the rest of the teams, we’re having constructive dialogue on. And there isn’t necessarily — given the status of where we are in our launch — there isn’t really a huge timing rush on that. But we are having constructive discussions on it.”
Sinclair’s COO and president of broadcast Robert D. Weisbord added, “We’re also having constructive conversations at the league level as well, so both with our teams and with MLB itself.”
There have been concerns that MLB might not look favorably on an outside company elbowing into the baseball streaming space given the sheer exclusivity that MLB.TV has owned for two decades.
It is difficult to gauge the market for a local sports streaming service, as Bally Sports+ would be the first of its kind, but the closest comparisons would likely come from the services and packages made available on different platforms by the leagues themselves. Those options almost exclusively cover out-of-market games, so it’s not apples-to-apples, but it is worth a look.
MLB.TV streaming service currently costs $24.99 per month, while NBA League Pass Premium costs $29.99 per month. The NFL Sunday Ticket is currently only available on DIRECTV and costs $74 per month, while NHL.TV is now part of ESPN+ on the $6.99 per month plan.