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Industry Insider Predicts Sinclair’s Bally Sports Direct-to-Consumer Service Not Likely

Jeff Kotuby

At least one industry expert thinks Sinclair’s Bally Sports DTC app won’t come to fruition.

During a guest spot on “Spotlight SBJ,” Sports Business Journal media reporter John Ourand was asked about the chance we actually see Sinclair’s sports streaming service launch before next year’s MLB season, to which Ourand said, “not good.”

“I would be really surprised if Sinclair gets everything in place to where they can get this done,” Ourand said during the interview, citing Sinclair’s need to negotiate streaming rights with each NBA, NHL, and MLB team of which they own broadcasting rights — a steep hill to climb in just under a year, especially when Ourand says outright that the leagues “don’t like Sinclair” and the way they’ve been doing business, though he admits the relationship could be repaired over time.

Ourand also says he thinks distributors that currently broadcast Sinclair’s RSNs would be incensed by the move and either offer these RSNs at a pricier tier or drop the RSNs outright. This would parallel a move we’ve seen over the past months, as cable providers like DISH Network and live TV streaming services like YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV have dropped Bally Sports RSNs with no end to the disagreements in sight.

Just days after an official Bally Sports tweet mentioned “no plans” to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming option in 2021, Sinclair Broadcast Group president and CEO Chris Ripley said during a shareholder meeting earlier this year that the company was developing a DTC model to complement its programming, but it wouldn’t come for “many months.” The timeline hinted at a planned launch in the first half of 2022, as Ripley said his company, already cleared the path to launch direct-to-consumer with broadcast companies and teams,” but seemed to pivot to a launch prior to the 2022 MLB season between now and then.

Ripley didn’t share any further news on the Bally Sports DTC app, like the exact release date, pricing, and what games will be included. However, having acquired direct-to-consumer streaming rights for most teams and clearing them with the cable and satellite distributors, they are working with the league and teams to define what the direct-to-consumer offering will be. But, according to Ourand, this is all smoke and mirrors.

It remains to be seen how the relationship between Sinclair, the teams, the leagues, and the cable providers will all shake out — but Ourand has his own opinion on what will happen, saying, “all of it is about to explode.”

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