Diamond Sports Officially Declares Bankruptcy; Bally Sports Plans to Continue Airing All Games During Restructuring
After weeks of discussion, Diamond Sports Group (DSG) officially announced on Tuesday evening that it had officially filed for Chapter 11 protections via U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group (SBG) which owns and operates the Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs) has agreed to terms with the majority of its creditors to eliminate over $8 billion in debt, clearing the way for it to restructure and attempt to continue to broadcast games as a standalone company outside of SBG’s corporate structure.
“Diamond intends to use the proceedings to restructure and strengthen its balance sheet, while continuing to broadcast quality live sports productions to fans across the nation,” the company said in a statement. “DSG expects that its Bally Sports regional sports networks will continue to operate in the ordinary course during the Chapter 11 process.”
DSG owns the broadcasting rights to 42 teams and airs games from NBA, NHL, and MLB games across on cable channels across the country. Last year, the company also launched a direct-to-consumer (DTC) service called Bally Sports+ that provides in-market customers to stream games from most of its teams without having to subscribe to a cable or satellite provider.
Despite the fact that Major League Baseball has been preparing to take back the rights of any teams that do not receive their scheduled payments from Diamond, the broadcaster plans to continue airing games, even as the start of the baseball season is just weeks away.
“DSG will continue broadcasting games and connecting fans across the country with the sports and teams they love,” Diamond CEO David Preschlack said. “The financial flexibility attained through this restructuring will allow DSG to evolve our business while continuing to provide exceptional live sports productions for our fans.”
On Monday, it was reported that DSG had decided to reject the contracts of four baseball teams — Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, and San Diego Padres — and that MLB would instead assume the rights and would stream the games in-market for free this season. This has yet to be confirmed by either Major League Baseball or Diamond Sports.
In response to the official bankruptcy announcement, however, the MLB reaffirmed its ability to step in and continue to provide fans access to their teams should Diamond fall short of its agreements.
“Despite Diamond’s economic situation, there is every expectation that they will continue televising all games they are committed to during the bankruptcy process,” MLB said in a statement Tuesday night. “Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute games to fans in their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with our Clubs.”
The Diamond bankruptcy is not the only RSN-related issue that sports teams and leagues are currently trying to navigate. Last month, Warner Bros. Discovery informed the 10 teams that aired games on AT&T SportsNet RSNs and Root Sports Northwest that the company would be getting out of the regional sports business.
Those channels cover four MLB teams — the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Colorado Rockies — three NBA teams — the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets — and three NHL teams — the Seattle Kraken, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Initial reporting indicated that WBD informed the teams that they have until the end of March to reach an agreement to take reacquire their broadcast rights, or the channels will move forward with a plan to enter Chapter 7 liquidation.
The rapid decline of the cable TV business has disproportionally impacted RSNs which rely on carriage fees to stay in business. Traditionally, Major League Baseball teams generated a substantial amount of their revenue given the large inventory of games that they provide during an otherwise quiet portion of the sports calendar. However, as customers have continued to cut the cord, not only have RSNs been impacted, but increasingly so have teams.
It benefits all involved for the RSNs to remain fully functional, but any disruption in their operations could have significant implications for the broadcasters, leagues, teams, and fans.
What Teams are on Bally Sports Regional Sports Networks?
*Bally Sports+ doesn’t have streaming rights yet for teams with an asterisk.