Teams, leagues and, most importantly, fans are eagerly waiting to see what happens to Bally Sports.
Diamond Sports Group, which owns 19 Bally Sports channels, skipped a recent debt payment worth well over $100 million. What does that move mean for the company and its partners, and how could it impact fans in the near future with the NBA and NHL regular seasons winding down and a new MLB season on the horizon?
Here’s what we know about the status of Diamond Sports Group and its networks right now:
What is Bally Sports?
Sinclair Broadcast Group bought 21 regional sports networks, which had previously been known as Fox Sports Networks, from Disney in 2019 for $10.6 billion and formed Diamond Sports Group. The Department of Justice required Disney to sell the Fox Sports Networks in order for it to complete its acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s film and TV library.
In 2021, Sinclair rebranded the stations to Bally Sports following a reported $85 million naming rights deal with casino operator Bally’s Corporation.
Which MLB, NBA, NHL and WNBA teams does Bally Sports broadcast?
Diamond Sports Group owns the local TV rights for 47 professional teams across MLB, the NBA, the NHL and the WNBA.
- MLB: Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers
- NBA: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs
- NHL: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning
- WNBA: Atlanta Dream, Dallas Wings, Indiana Fever, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury
Is Bally Sports bankrupt?
Diamond Sports Group announced on Feb. 15 that it would skip its $140 million debt payment due that day and enter a 30-day grace period. The company said it intends to use the grace period to “continue progressing its ongoing discussions with creditors and other key stakeholders regarding potential strategic alternatives and deleveraging transactions to best position Diamond Sports Group for the future.”
Bloomberg reported in January that Diamond Sports Group is $8.6 billion in debt overall. The skipped payment has been viewed as a precursor to Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it has the 30-day grace period to work out an alternative.
Will Bally Sports have games in 2023?
Each of Bally’s regional sports networks has its own deal with the teams it broadcasts, and Forbes reports that Diamond Sports Group has enough cash to make its payments through the rest of the year. Still, leagues are working on emergency plans to take over production and land deals with local stations in an effort to avoid blackouts for local games.
“Our goal would be to make games available not only within the traditional cable bundle but on the digital side, as well,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told the AP. “What we do is largely dependent on how Diamond and the creditors play their cards, what they decide to do.”
MLB is threatening to pull local media rights if Diamond misses another installment, according to Forbes. The league already has MLB.TV, along with notorious blackout issues, and Manfred is already looking ahead to a future where MLB can package digital and linear TV.
“I hope we get to the point where on the digital side, when you go to MLB.TV, you can buy whatever the heck you want,” Manfred said Feb. 16. “You can buy the out-of-market package. You can buy the local games, you can buy two sets of local games – whatever you want. I mean, that is, to me, the definition of what is going to be a valuable digital offering going forward.”
Since most of the 2022-23 NBA and NHL regular seasons have come and gone, most teams have already been paid a significant portion of their local rights fees. Still, the NBA’s national media rights deal expires in a few years and its collective bargaining agreement with players expires after the 2023-24 season. Local TV money plays a role in the league’s salary cap, so both teams and players have plenty riding on the future of NBA broadcasting at the local, national and international levels.
“We are engaged in discussions with Diamond and are committed to ensuring that NBA fans in the markets served by Bally Sports have continued access to all local games,” the NBA said in a statement to Forbes.
In the NHL, local TV money is even more critical since its national TV deals are three to four times less than those for the NBA and MLB.
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