Diamond Sports Blocks Parent Company Sinclair Broadcasting from Day-to-Day Input over Bally Sports Networks
The holidays are usually a season of love and giving, but they may be building towards a messy split between Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) and its sports vertical Diamond Sports. Diamond, which operates Sinclair’s Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs), held a board meeting Sunday at which members voted to block Sinclair from having any further input on day-to-day operations of the RSNs, according to Anthony Crupi from Sportico.
Diamond has named David Preschlack, who served as the president of NBC Sports’ RSN division from 2016 to 2021, as the man to oversee Bally’s sports networks going forward. The move means that Diamond is taking increasing control over Bally Sports’ RSNs, which could be good news for Ballys’ ongoing dispute with Major League Baseball.
That dispute over the amount Bally Sports should pay for baseball rights led to the company launching its direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service Bally Sports+ with the streaming rights to just five of the 30 MLB teams. According to John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal, creditors have become frustrated with the animosity that has developed between Sinclair and the MLB.
Preschalek may be just what the relationship needs to start afresh. His installation is a clear signal from Diamond and Bally that Sinclair is out of the picture in the negotiations, and that they want to lock up the rights to as many additional MLB teams as possible before the beginning of the 2023 season.
Sinclair recently reported that it was pleased with the number of customers it retained from offering a free trial of Bally Sports+ earlier this year, but declined to report exactly how many users the service currently has.
The move to cut Sinclair out of future decision-making doesn’t solve the wider problem for Diamond and Bally that RSNs have an increasingly bleak future. Traditional pay-TV providers are declining fast in the United States, and live TV streaming services are not picking up the slack for Bally RSNs, as most have stopped carrying the regional sports networks all together due to the cost.
It would be easier if Diamond or Sinclair already had an entertainment-based streaming service that they could pair with Bally Sports+, as NBCUniversal does. NBCU announced recently that it was making its own RSNs available to Peacock Premium Plus subscribers in select markets.
Sadly for Bally, its streaming service must stand alone through future troubles. Installing Preschlack as CEO and removing Sinclar from the equation may be the invigorating shot in the arm the service needs to iron out its major issues. It may also be a last-ditch effort to save Bally Sports+. If the platform doesn’t secure rights to additional teams from across the major sports leagues in the coming months, it could be the end of a $9.6 billion experiment that began when Sinclair purchased the RSNs in 2019.
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.
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).