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Bally Sports Direct-To-Consumer Option In The Works, But Not Until First Half of 2022

Jeff Kotuby

As we’ve said many times this year - never say never, especially when it comes to the streaming industry.

Just days after a tweet mentioned “no plans” to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming option in 2021 for its Bally Sports brand, Sinclair Broadcast Group today said it was developing a DTC model to complement its programming, but it wouldn’t come for “many months.”

Today, though, we finally have confirmation of an app in development that can actually make its way to consumers. “We have already cleared the path to launch direct-to-consumer with broadcast companies and teams,” Sinclair Broadcast Group president and CEO Chris Ripley said. The timeline hinted at today seems to confirm a planned launch in the first half of 2022.

Ripley didn’t share any further news on the Bally Sports DTC app, like the exact release date, pricing, and what games will be included. However, having acquired direct-to-consumer streaming rights for most teams and clearing them with the cable and satellite distributors, they are working with the league and teams to define what the direct-to-consumer offering will be.

“We have already cleared the path with the distributors to launch direct-to-consumer,” Ripley said. “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.”

Ideally, this new offering would allow fans of teams in Bally Sports regions to watch their teams without having to subscribe to a live TV streaming service that provides Bally Sports RSNs. Currently, AT&T TV is the only live TV streaming service that carries Bally Sports. If you don’t want AT&T TV and don’t want to subscribe to a traditional cable provider — you’re simply out of luck.

Ripley acknowledged the shift in the company’s business plan on today’s Q1 2021 investors call, saying, “If you’re noticing a difference in tone on direct-to-consumer for sports, I think that is an accurate pickup as we dig into the details of our business plan and really, realize what the other opportunities are when you get a fan that’s coming in, day in, day out, to watch your games on a digital interactive platform when you know who the viewer is and you can funnel them into other opportunities. (There) are massive adjacencies growing really, really fast, like sports betting, like merchandise, like what’s going on with NFTs. And that becomes a platform for interaction and socialization for the fan.”

This isn’t the first time Ripley has mentioned a DTC version of their app, as he discussed it back in December 2020, with him again mentioning a DTC app would launch in 2022 on a call earlier this year.

If you’re already subscribed to AT&T TV or wish to sign up, the new DTC app is promised to complement the broadcasting experience, not replace it. Ripley said during Sinclair’s Q4 2020 call, the app, “will feature a more personalized and interactive viewing experience. The app will provide significantly enhanced functionally and a new design.”

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