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Sinclair COO ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Adding MLB Teams to DTC Streamer

Matt Tamanini

With the first pitch of Major League Baseball’s 2022 season just over a week away, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s COO is still putting on a brave face when it comes to the conglomerate’s announced direct-to-consumer sports streaming service. Speaking on Wednesday at an event hosted by Digital Entertainment Group, Rob Weisbord said that he was “cautiously optimistic” about his company’s ability to secure streaming rights from additional MLB teams now that the lockout has been resolved.

Currently, Sinclair’s Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs) own the streaming rights to five baseball teams — the Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, and Detroit Tigers — and are reportedly in conversations with the Chicago Cubs as well.

However, Sinclair would like to add as many teams as possible to their roster to bolster their streaming possibilities. “There are ongoing conversations. I’m cautiously optimistic, now that they got past the lockout,” Weisbord said. “I believe that there is a path for a deal to get additional teams. But it takes a lot of conversations to get there and we’re having ongoing dialogue.”

Though the company had originally announced a “soft-launch” for its streamer this spring, the service is now expected to become available this summer.

In addition to the five MLB teams, Sinclair currently owns the streaming rights to 12 NHL and 16 NBA teams, and the full launch of their proposed streaming service would likely be tied to the fall opening days of those sports.

Despite cable carriage for their RSNs being the biggest revenue driver for sports rights, Sinclair is focusing on streaming as more and more fans cut the cord and focus on alternative ways to get their content. As sports continues to be king across all types of broadcasting platforms, Sinclair is trying to get ahead of the game on the move to streaming.

One of the issues surrounding the Bally Sports streamer is its price point. Sinclair projects that the service will cost $225 per year, or $18.75 per month. Initially, reports indicated that the service would carry a $23 per month fee, but that was denied by CEO Chris Ripley. That is a significant price, considering that it is higher than all major streaming services except for Netflix’s Premium Plan ($19.99/month).

However, given the limited options for cord-cutting sports fans to stream the games of their favorite teams if Sinclair owns their rights, it might be worth the price. Currently, the least expensive way to stream Bally Sports RSNs is with a subscription to DIRECTV STREAM's Choice Plan, which runs $89.99 per month.

Going the DTC route seems to be the company’s best option as live TV streaming services have nearly uniformly dropped the networks for various reasons in recent years. YouTube TV stopped carrying many of the Sinclair-owned RSNs in 2020, leaving only the NBC-branded networks and SNY on the service. With DIRECTV STREAM being the only option available to stream Bally-broadcast games, Sinclair appears to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making the most of their streaming rights. Adding more MLB teams would certainly go a long way to making the pricy proposed platform worth the investment for fans across the country.