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Bally Sports DTC ‘Soft Launch’ Coming in Q2, Price Still Not Set

Jeff Kotuby, Matt Tamanini

Today, Sinclair Broadcasting Group held its Q4 2021 earnings call and used the event to hype up their previously announced direct-to-consumer regional sports network streaming service.

Through their RSN Bally Sports App, Sinclair has been promising a DTC sports streaming app since early 2021. According to Sinclair's projections, the app will cost $225 per year, which comes out to $18.75 per month. The company had been circulating a $23 a month price point for the Bally Sports DTC service as part of Sinclair’s fundraising efforts. That number was soundly denied by Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley in an interview with the Baltimore Business Journal.

However, that price could be even more eye-popping than originally anticipated after Ripley cited a stat that some viewers would be willing to pay for a DTC RSN “regardless of price.”

On the call, Ripley announced that the company is planning to soft launch their DTC service with five Major League Baseball teams in Q2 of 2022 before launching wide with the all of the NBA and NHL teams for which they own the broadcast rights later in the year, presumably with the launch of the basketball and hockey seasons in the fall. Sinclair said that there are 80 million homes in the footprints of the professional teams for which they have the DTC rights.

Back in November, Ripley was optimistic about the streaming service, saying they had a solid amount of streaming rights and more would be on the way. However, while the CEO was coy on additions to their lineup, the company’s streaming strategy hinges on obtaining rights from the 38 MLB, NBA, and NHL franchises already available on Sinclair stations, but that is meeting pushback from a number of leagues.

In part, due to the success of their out-of-market MLB.TV package, Major League Baseball would like to have a league-wide, comprehensive approach to in-market streaming as well, which could stall Sinclair’s DTC plan.

There’s also the funny little matter of the ongoing MLB lockout, where players and owners can’t seem to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, which would undoubtedly throw a wrench into Sinclair’s plans to soft launch prior to the MLB season.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Sinclair and its Ballys Sports app. The company was reportedly close to acquiring several NBA rights last month. Sixteen teams would all have their games shown on the Bally Sports app. The deal was finalized a week later, meaning that the app has what might be its new main selling point — the NBA.

Sinclair’s Bally Sports app is still set to launch in 2022, alongside what the company hopes will be a full MLB season.

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