NHL Commissioner Assures Fans Bally Sports, AT&T SportsNets Games Will Air as Scheduled
It’s a rather uncertain time for sports fans right now. As the regional sports network (RSN) model continues to totter and stumble, fans of many different sports are wondering if their team’s games will continue to air in the same place.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is aware of these concerns among hockey fans, and he offered some reassuring words this week. In a press conference, as reported by the Athletic, Bettman discussed the league’s plans for its teams covered by RSNs, both in the short and long term.
To start with, Bettman confirmed that the 14 NHL teams covered by Bally Sports and AT&T SportsNet RSNs will air the rest of their regular season and first-round playoff games as scheduled. That backs up a public statement from Diamond Sports Group, which owns Bally Sports’ RSNS and officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections on Wednesday.
“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.”
“Obviously, it’s not inexpensive to run sports channels or (Diamond) wouldn’t be in the situation that they’re in,” Bettman said. “But in a combination of linear carriage and streaming, we can get the games out there. And listen, we’re in an era where the business model is evolving for local distribution of games in all the sports, and that’s something we’re going to have to address not just on a short-term basis, but on the long-term.”
Bally Sports has the broadcast and streaming rights to 12 NHL teams in total. Two more are covered by AT&T SportsNet channels: the Las Vegas Golden Knights on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain and the Pittsburgh Penguins on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. Warner Bros. Discovery owns these channels, but it sent notice to all teams covered by its RSNs in late February that it was stepping away from those networks. Despite that intention, Bettman is assuring fans those games will be broadcast as planned.
“(AT&T SportsNet is) going to continue to carry the games (through the end of teams’ seasons),” Bettman said. “As I said (regarding) any of the regionals, we believe based on everything we’ve been told — and we’re in constant dialogue — that our games certainly through this regular season will be taken care of. And then once we get to the playoffs, there’s national distribution.”
Once the NHL reaches its second playoff round, broadcasts will revert to ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS. In the longer term, Bettman is aware that RSNs won’t be a feasible means of broadcasting games for much longer. He says the NHL is hard at work on solutions to that problem, though he wasn’t ready to share many details.
“There are a series of (short- and long-term) options that we’re considering and we’re ready to execute if we need to make sure the games are produced and carried,” Bettman said.
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.
With the service, you can stream your local games from 16 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams.
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).