Bally Sports+ Retained 74% of Customers Who Tried Free Trial; No Updates on More Baseball Teams Added to Service
On Thursday, Sinclair Media Group (SMG) held an investor’s call for its Diamond Sports segment that focused heavily on the company’s in-market regional sports network (RSN) streaming service that soft-launched in June. Earlier this week, Bally Sports+ announced that it would launch wide on Sept. 26 in time for the start of the NHL and NBA seasons. While Sinclair declined to reveal subscriber numbers from the soft launch, the company execs did indicate that the early results have been favorable compared to internal expectations.
The company added that the subscriptions thus far have led Sinclair to remain committed to its long-term target of five to 10 million subscribers. On the call, Sinclair’s chief revenue officer Rob Weisbord noted that 74% of customers who went through the seven-day free trial of the soft launch retained their subscription when it moved to a paid plan. He also noted that the time spent viewing games via Bally Sports+ was “significant.”
Sinclair’s CEO Chris Ripley added that the in-app viewing outpaced that of traditional TV subscribers streaming games through other authenticated channels.
“[Via Bally Sports+], 33% more minutes were used by direct consumer users versus TV Everywhere every users,” he said. The exec also touted the app’s interactive features, which the company plans to continue rolling out as the full launch approaches next month.
Sinclair’s team was asked multiple times by analysts on the call about potentially adding streaming rights for additional Major League Baseball teams. Currently, the company only has the streaming rights to five clubs — the Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, Kansas City Royals, and Tampa Bay Rays — all of which were included in the soft launch.
While the execs declined to give updates on whether other teams would be added in time for the 2023 season, they did pull the curtain back a little bit saying that they would be working to add direct-to-consumer streaming rights when each individual team’s other broadcast rights come up for renewal.
Via the soft launch, the Bally Sports+ service is currently only available in the five markets that the company has the baseball streaming rights for. However, when it launches in full in September, it will expand to the markets housing the 16 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams that Sinclair has streaming rights for.
At launch, Bally Sports+ has both monthly and annual plans; the former runs $19.99 per month, while the annual option costs $189.99 for a full year. However, the difficulty that Sinclair will likely run into when it comes to encouraging sports fans to sign up for the annual plan is that it would only be a worthwhile investment if a consumer lives in one of the regions that Bally Sports has MLB rights for and an NHL and/or NBA team. Then, the fan would also need to be interested enough in all of the teams involved to pay nearly $200 to watch their games.
Another complication with the service is that while cable customers in some states with multiple markets of professional teams — like Florida and California — are able to watch games on multiple Bally Sports linear channels, they would need to subscribe to multiple Bally Sports+ streams to replicate those same viewing options.
Sinclair was not the only broadcaster to launch an in-market RSN streamer in Q2. New England network NESN launched NESNPlus in June for fans to stream games of the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins. NESN has not yet reported how many subscribers the fledgling service has, and while it will ultimately be much smaller than the wider Bally Sports+ network, comparing how the services stack up in per region subscriber totals will be telling.
For a benchmark, ESPN+, which does feature MLB, NBA, and NHL games — along with many other sports — reported having 22.3 million customers at the end of March. While the service is not a single-region, in-market broadcaster, the success of the service — even buoyed by the Disney bundle — shows that there is an appetite for sports-focused streaming services.
The NHL will start its preseason on Sept. 24 and the NBA will release its 2022-23 schedule this month, so Sinclair will likely not release subscriber totals for the fully launched version of the Bally Sports+ app until early 2023, but with the launch of the expanded service coming soon, there is a lot in store for sports fans around the country.
Bally Sports+ is a direct-to-consumer streaming service that offers live games for those who want access to your local Bally Sports RSN without subscribing to a cable or satellite package.
The service will have two plans: a monthly plan for $19.99 a month, or an annual plan for $189.99 per year ($15.83/mo pre-paid annually).
For their soft-launch, there are five MLB teams available to stream: Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, Kansas City Royals, and Tampa Bay Rays. Sinclair has yet to get approval from MLB to stream the rest of the teams that they own the traditional broadcast rights for.
The service is only intended for those who live in-market to their local teams. If you live out-of-market, you will need to subscribe to MLB.TV (MLB), NHL.TV via ESPN+ (NHL), or NBA League Pass (NBA).