As Bankruptcy Looms, Sinclair Sports Networks Consider Launching Streaming Service to Watch Individual Games
Desperation breeds innovation, at least in the case of Diamond Sports Group (DSG). DSG owns and operates the collection of 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs), and is currently headed toward a highly complicated debt restructuring plan in bankruptcy court, according to reporting from Bloomberg. DSG itself is in an unusual stalemate with its own parent company Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG). Diamond has blocked SBG from having any involvement in the day-to-day operations of the RSNs that it technically owns.
As a part of that restructuring plan, DSG and Bally Sports are reportedly considering launching yet another direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service. The proposed service would differ from the company’s current DTC offering Bally Sports+, in that it would allow fans to pay to watch individual games, or even parts of games.
That would certainly be an innovative response to DSG’s current financial woes. As it stands, Bally Sports+ has the rights to stream games from five MLB teams, 12 NHL teams, and 16 NBA teams, but users don’t have the option to watch individual games on the service; there’s no indication that they would really want to either.
The trouble for DSG in launching this new service is the same stumbling block it has been running into for months: Major League Baseball. MLB has stated for months that it has no interest in accepting what DSG is willing/able to pay to get streaming rights to more teams. The rights to those teams are crucial to the success of any potential new streaming service for DSG and Bally Sports, because without them there simply won’t be enough inventory to financially justify a new DTC offering.
The intransigence of MLB might get worse before it gets better. In mid-January, the league hired former FOX and Sinclair executive Billy Chambers to be its first-ever executive vice president of local media. Chambers was specifically brought on to help better distribute baseball games in local markets, which is the main function of RSNs. Chambers’ hiring combined with MLB’s disputes with DSG has led to speculation that the league might be trying to launch its own DTC service in the near future.
For now, there is little for DSG to do but wait and play out events in bankruptcy court. The company has repeatedly made it clear that it would welcome the addition of major sports leagues as equity partners, and even tried to sell itself outright to the NHL, NBA, and MLB at the end of 2022. Filing for bankruptcy protection while it restructures would offer a temporary reprieve, but it would cause a myriad of issues for sports leagues.
Bankruptcy filing would mean that DSG would not have to pay teams that it currently has rights agreements with until its restructure is complete. That would certainly create even more friction between DSG and those teams, leading an already souring relationship to deteriorate even faster. Sports leagues rely on media rights payments to pay players and cover other crucial aspects of their operations.
Even if Bally Sports and DSG don’t manage to launch a new streaming service, the idea of offering single-game streams is intriguing. If another sports streamer figured out a way to maximize their revenue per user for one game, more companies might be attracted to the idea of offering such limited sports streaming packages in the future.
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 has 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), after a 7-Day Free Trial.
In areas where fans have access to more than one Bally sports network, an optional bundle allows the addition of a second channel. The monthly total for two RSNs is $29.99/month.
With the service, you can stream your local games from 16 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams.
In addition to NHL and NBA, 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).