The Bankruptcy of Bally Sports
News broke Tuesday morning that Amazon and the parent company of Bally Sports, Diamond Sports Group, reached a deal amidst its ongoing bankruptcy case. Bally Sports first gained the rights to the Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) formerly of the Fox Sports Regional networks in May 2019 after regulators forced The Walt Disney Company to sell them off after their merger with 21st Century Fox.
The financial hardships faced by Diamond Sports Group are not surprising considering the capital investments required for new studios and infographics, limited number of providers Bally was available on, and the financial hardships caused by the global pandemic of COVID-19.
Diamond Sports Group officially files for bankruptcy pic.twitter.com/pvgWJEumbd
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 15, 2023
Amazon is acquiring a minority stake in Diamond Sports Group, the owner of Bally Sports, providing Diamond Sports Group with a framework to emerge from bankruptcy.
— MLB Deadline News (@MLBDeadlineNews) January 17, 2024
Amazon, Bally Sports, and the Milwaukee Brewers: The New Deal
Tuesday’s announcement revealed that Amazon will absorb debt from Bally Sports in return for a minority ownership stake in its parent company and broadcasting rights to some of their RSNs. With the new deal, the upcoming 2024 MLB season will be the first one affected by the new deal.
The deal has reportedly set a framework where just five of the thirteen MLB teams currently affiliated with a Bally Sports RSN. Those teams are the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Milwaukee Brewers. Games for those teams will be broadcast on Amazon Prime, with the rest at the moment left unchanged.
At the moment, many details are left uncertain, including how this affects blackout restrictions across the country (especially the blackout-stricken state of Iowa), whether a separate pricing model of Amazon Prime will be made for RSN access, or the future of the remaining teams broadcasting on RSNs or their staff, including NBA and NHL teams (such as the Milwaukee Bucks).
However, given the access Amazon has already gained, it would not be surprising if they moved for larger consolidation to bolster their streaming service to compete against the likes of Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV, especially considering their current partnership to carry Thursday Night Football for the NFL.
Regardless, this deal now alleviates some of the accessibility issues previously presented to Wisconsin residents. Bally Sports was originally only available to YouTube TV and Charter Spectrum customers, and later launched a direct-to-consumer subscription model met by much public backlash due to technical issues and the declared bankruptcy.
With Amazon Prime being available for everyone with a stable internet connection and already having a robust streaming service with a stable technical backbone, this deal looks to offer improvement for consumers in the affected markets to access baseball in 2024, and perhaps more in the near future.
The following are the only five MLB teams’ broadcasts that will be available on Amazon Prime: Tigers, Royals, Marlins, Rays, and Brewers.
— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) January 17, 2024
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