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Major Distributors Pushing Back on Sinclair’s Bally Sports Streaming Service

Jeff Kotuby

Despite statements from Sinclair Broadcast Group saying they’ve vetted their broadcasting partners in preparation for a direct-to-consumer launch next year, two major distributors within Sinclair’s sphere are saying otherwise.

In a report published by Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, executives from two major cable distributors are saying they haven’t approved the Direct-to-Consumer Bally Sports offering yet. This statement contradicts words from Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley, who said earlier this year that his company, “already cleared the path with the distributors to launch direct-to-consumer…and we have rights — stretch consumer rights, really, for the vast majority of our teams. We are in discussions with the leagues and the teams on enhancing some of those rights to make the product even better.”

It’s difficult to discern the truth-teller here, but regardless of who’s fibbing and who’s not, this mess is just another indication that it’ll be tough sledding to get Sinclair’s DTC sports streaming option off the ground — something Ourand himself recently predicted would happen. Last week, Ourand appeared on SBJ’s “Spotlight SBJ” and answered a few questions about the landscape of sports media. When approached with the subject of Sinclair’s Bally Sports DTC option launching before the 2022 MLB season, Ourand said the forecast was “not good.”

“I would be really surprised if Sinclair gets everything in place to where they can get this done,” Ourand said, citing Sinclair’s need to negotiate streaming rights with each NBA, NHL, and MLB team of which they own broadcasting rights — of which there are many. Also thrown in there was the note that the leagues, flat out “don’t like Sinclair” and their business practices, something that could further impede the app’s launch.

Also at play is Sinclair’s rumored price point of $23 a month, as reported by the New York Post. In a world where services like Hulu, discovery+, and now HBO Max can be consumed under $10 a month, would sports fans really pony up more than twice that amount for seasonal sports content? The answer is probably — but they won’t be happy about it.

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