Major League Baseball plans to step up to the plate to broadcast games of roughly a half-dozen teams from a bankruptcy-bound regional sports network provider so that fans don’t miss a single pitch, The Post has learned.
Diamond Sports owns the home broadcast rights to 14 baseball teams, but sources close to the situation told The Post the money-hemorrhaging company is expected to file for bankruptcy March 17 – days before the season opens on March 30.
Diamond, which operates under the Bally’s name, is expected to use the bankruptcy proceedings to reject the contracts of at least four teams to which it pays more in rights fees than it collects back through cable contracts and ads, two sources close to the situation said.
The teams in the red include the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, according to one of the sources. Presently, Diamond stands to lose $20 million annually on San Diego alone, the source added.
The Post in December broke the news about the likely bankruptcy filing and Diamond’s plan to reject contracts, which it disputed at the time.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred will have the league take over the local broadcasts of the money-losing teams and stream them for free in their respective local markets as he negotiates with their cable companies for lower contracts, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.
MLB has not finalized plans for how fans in the blacked-out markets will be able to view the free games. Currently, fans can pay to watch out-of-market games through the MLB.TV app.
MLB declined comment.
A spokesperson for Diamond declined to comment when reached by The Post on Sunday.
Even if MLB reaches deals with cable providers, it will still offer the over-the-top service for around $15 a month, the source added.
That is significantly lower than the $29.99 the Boston Red Sox charge per month for streaming, or the $19.99 Bally’s is charging in its markets. Diamond doesn’t own the rights to either the Mets or Yankees but it does own a minority stake in the YES Network.
MLB recently tried to acquire the rights to all 14 teams that Diamond broadcasts, the two sources said.
“They said no,” a source said.
A source close to Diamond said MLB has not made any new proposals to the company in recent weeks.
Diamond also owns the local rights for 16 National Basketball Association franchises, including the Miami Heat, and 12 National Hockey League teams, including the Detroit Red Wings.
The company plans to broadcast NBA and NHL games until the end of the season and through the first round of the upcoming playoffs and is in active negotiations to do so on a go-forward basis, a source close to the situation said.
The company was formed after Sinclair Broadcast Group paid $10.6 billion for the Fox Sports Networks regional channels in a highly leveraged buyout in 2019.
Roughly four years later, Diamond may soon find all its contracts unprofitable when its deals with Comcast expire in September and DirectTV in November, sources said.
Cable companies keep cutting the prices they pay for regional sports networks.
As a result the value of RSNs is quickly collapsing.
“They will get walloped,” a source said when those existing contracts need to be renewed.
Last month, Warner Brothers Discovery announced it was cutting its rights payments to the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies, whose games it airs through AT&T SportsNet.
MLB plans to take over those broadcasts over time but not by Opening Day, a source close to that situation said, and those games are expected to still be aired through AT&T for the time being.
The plan is for MLB to keep the local announcers that already announce games for their teams when they take over the broadcasts, sources said.
Locally, MSG Networks, which doesn’t broadcast MLB games, has seen its earnings decline and has a roughly $900 million debt payment in October 2024. If it cannot refinance its loans it too will very likely go bankrupt, sources said.
On March 1, MSG Networks announced the launch of its own MSG+ streaming channel that will charge $10 a game or $30 a month for Knicks and Rangers games.
The combination of cord-cutting and some cable networks electing not to carry expensive RSNs has throttled MLB’s exposure. Just 35% of those that live in MLB markets can watch local baseball games on cable TV through regional sports networks.
Last year, 65 million fans attended games, 8% less than the 70 million in pre-pandemic 2018 and far fewer than the 79 million peak in 2008.
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