Bally Sports has been a hot topic this year, as their owner Diamond Sports Group goes through bankruptcy court. And now the latest out of the hearing that happened just yesterday, says that Sinclair expects Bally Sports to shut down next year, at the end of the 2024 MLB season.
But here’s where things get interesting, Diamond Sports Group doesn’t agree, and objected to that idea. Diamond Sports Group is the division within Sinclair that owns Bally Sports. Sinclair’s outside counsel, David Selign said during the hearing that “Sinclair folks who original acquired Diamond, they’re kind of bummed, they’re bummed that this business that they put in a billion and a half of equity value in, is now going to shut down. There’s going to be people losing their jobs….Diamond’s business is going away.”
What makes things interesting is that the new contract Bally Sports negotiated with the NBA may come to an end early. If Bally Sports is unable to reach a deal with Spectrum in February, the NBA could walk away from the TV contract entirely.
Bally Sports has not announced plans to shut down
It’s important to note that Bally Sports has not announced any plans to shut down, and people familiar with the matter have stated they see a path forward to exit bankruptcy without shutting down. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the end of the 2024 MLB Season next October.
However, Bally Sports has already given up the rights to a number of teams, because they couldn’t afford to pay their fees. Currently, Bally Sports has rights to 15 NBA teams, 12 NHL teams, and 11 MLB teams.
Scripps Sports has also shown that it has interest in getting the rights to local teams if Bally Sports does indeed shut down. Back in October, Scripps stated that they do have deals to step in if Bally Sports does drop local teams. Scripps Sports President, Brian Lawlor stated that they are “talking to the leagues every week. I don’t think any of them are hoping it’s all going to blow up, people would like to see existing conracts get to the end of those contracts and have time to thoughtfully figure out what’s the right next step.”
This division of Scripps is actually fairly new, having only been formed in January of this year. However, it has already signed broadcast deals for the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL. It has also made a deal to put WNBA games on Friday Nights on its Ion Network. A problem that Scripps Sports is running into is the resistance by distributors to carry independent and digital channels that are now carrying the games of teams that are popular locally. Scripps does see opportunity with the sports business, hence why they launched Scripps Sports in January.