MLB Will Stream Diamondbacks, Reds, Guardians, Padres Games for Free After Diamond Sports Rejects Contracts
Deadlines always seem to force action, and such is the case once again in the Bally Sports regional sports network (RSN) debacle. The New York Post is reporting that Major League Baseball will stream the games of four teams for free on MLB.TV this season after Diamond Sports Group (DSG) — which owns and operates Bally Sports RSNs — rejected its contracts with those teams in the midst of bankruptcy court proceedings.
The four affected teams are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, and San Diego Padres. DSG’s contracts with these teams force the company to pay out more to the clubs than it earns back from cable contracts and advertising. Apparently, it would rather let them go than continue losing money on them or attempt to head back to the negotiating table, especially considering how little leverage the company has.
The four teams now leaving Bally Sports will still charge users to stream their games outside their respective local markets. MLB.TV is an out-of-market games package normally, so the league will have to renegotiate with cable providers to determine how it will make in-market customers pay to watch games. Until then, however, users in the Arizona, Cincinnati, San Diego, and Cleveland markets will enjoy the ability to stream them for free. This means that Bally Sports Arizona, Bally Sports Great Lakes, Bally Sports Ohio, and Bally Sports San Diego will no longer offer MLB games.
It was reported last week that DSG had already missed a broadcasting rights payment to the Diamondbacks, but that it was still under a grace period during which it could pay that money without a penalty. Rejecting the contract with the four franchises could be DSG’s way of sidestepping an ultimatum issued by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in February.
In a press conference last month, Manfred stated frankly that MLB would terminate all of its contracts with DSG if it missed the rights payment window for even one team. It’s unclear if DSG rejecting these teams’ contracts instead of missing payments creates the same termination right for MLB, but the company isn’t ready to send all its MLB broadcast rights back to the league yet. MLB recently asked DSG if it could reacquire all its rights according to the Post, but the sports vertical said “No.”
Despite this latest stumbling block for DSG, it plans to continue broadcasting NBA and NHL games for the rest of the 2022-23 season as planned. The NBA recently renewed its rights deals with DSG for the 16 teams in the company’s portfolio, as the league is hoping the company can gut it out through the end of the 2024-25 season. That’s when the NBA’s national broadcasting rights go up for sale once again.
But there’s a huge obstacle looming for DSG before that can happen: the expiration of its carriage deals with Comcast and DIRECTV this fall. It’s highly likely that those companies will try to force Bally Sports RSNs to broadcast for a lower carriage fee, if they’re interested in negotiating at all. If Comcast and DIRECTV decide to walk away from RSNs, it could be the final death knell for DSG.
Until then, the company still says it is resolute on broadcasting games as scheduled. Bally Sports now holds the broadcast rights to 10 MLB teams, 16 NBA teams, and 12 NHL teams.
MLB.TV is the official streaming service of Major League Baseball. You can see every out-of-market game live or on demand, and choose home or away TV and radio feeds. The app allows fans to watch up to four games simultaneously on the same screen through their Multi-view feature.
Users can choose to follow the entire league for “All Teams” ($149.99) plan, which is also available for “All Teams” ($24.99) a month, or you can stream one team’s out-of-market games for “Single Team” ($129.99).
One major caveat about the service: Your local games may be blacked out through MLB.TV, so you may still need to watch through your local provider.
If you’d like to go beyond the games, MLB.TV provides features, documentaries, and classic games.