Sinclair CEO Optimistic About Bally Sports DTC Streaming Service, But Only Has Rights to 4 MLB Teams
During Sinclair’s Q3 2021 earnings call, CEO Chris Ripley attempted to strike an upbeat tone about his company’s planned Bally Sports streaming service. Analysts raked him over the coals, pointing out that the company appears to have streaming rights for just four MLB teams. Ripley said, “Our expectation there is that we will accumulate more DTC rights as teams renew (their deals).”
As for the NHL and NBA teams with Sinclair, Ripley said, “We have always had linear authenticated streaming and DTC rights. And those are under current renewal discussions as a part of a larger deal, which includes market expansion, authenticated streaming and direct-to-consumer rights. So that’s where we stand from a rights perspective, and we do think we have critical mass in terms of rights to launch a product. And that’s what we intend to do.”
Read between the lines here and Sinclair is in trouble. Aside from the four baseball teams, their entire streaming plan hinges on obtaining rights from the other 38 franchises available on Sinclair stations. That won’t be easy or cheap.
One analyst asked if Sinclair might team up with other RSN providers. Ripley said, “I do think ultimately adding in rights from other groups like Comcast and AT&T makes sense. Whether you do that through transaction partnerships contracts, consortiums… (those are) things that will be contemplated in a Stage Two.”
Sinclair has been the subject of controversy since acquiring the former Fox Sports RSNs — and 2021 has been no different for them. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred publically voiced his displeasure with Sinclair Broadcasting Group's handling of its baseball rights, even going so far as to say Diamond Sports Group is close to bankruptcy.
NBA commish Adam Silver also levied criticism against the group, saying their purchase of NBA broadcasting rights was not a shrewd move. “They paid $10 billion, it’s not clear, it’s a good deal with $5 billion,” Silver said. Sinclair holds the rights to a total of 42 teams across Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NHL — a much smaller number than the 92-team total of the three leagues combined.
Sinclair bought Fox Sports RSNs for $10.6 billion in May 2019, after it was divested from Disney after their acquisition of 21st Century. In July 2019, both Dish Network and Sling TV dropped the channels from their service. Then, last year, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, and fuboTV dropped the RSNs.
In the calendar year 2018, the RSN portfolio delivered a combined $3.8 billion in revenue across 74 million subscribers. But the pandemic wreaked havoc with live sports last year and caused the RSN value to plummet. Sinclair Broadcast Group reported a loss of $3.2 billion in Q3 2020, including writing off part of the value of the RSNs.
Bally Sports RSNs are currently only available to stream on DIRECTV Stream. The NBC Sports RSNs still have a wide distribution across Live TV Streaming Services. While they were dropped by Sling TV earlier this year, they are available on Hulu Live TV, fuboTV, and YouTube TV.