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MLB will “step in” to broadcast games if Bally Sports RSNs go bankrupt, says Rob Manfred

Commissioner says league will make games available on cable and digital.

13 February 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Sinclair-owned DSG reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy
  • Manfred says close to US$1bn in revenue at risk

Major League Baseball (MLB) is prepared to step in and broadcast games should Diamond Sports Group (DSG) file for bankruptcy.

The league’s commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed MLB would look to make games available after it was reported DSG, which operates the 21 Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs), was being prepared for bankruptcy by media conglomerate Sinclair. According to Sportico, DSG is set to file for bankruptcy this week.

“I think you should assume that if Diamond doesn’t broadcast, we’ll be in a position to step in,” said Manfred at an owners’ meeting last week.

“Our goal would be to make games available not only within the traditional cable bundle but on the digital side, as well.”

As of 30th September, DSG has about US$585 million in cash on hand but owes about US$2 billion in rights fees to sports teams this year. Asked whether US$1 billion or US$2 billion was at risk, Manfred said: “Closer with the first number than the second.”

Bloomberg had reported that preparations are being made for teams in case of non-payment, with one option seeing teams gaining equity in the restructured company following the bankruptcy.

DSG has rights to local broadcasts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.

Those rights were included in Sinclair’s US$10.6 billion deal to acquire 21 RSNs from Disney, which also includes 16 National Basketball Association (NBA) teams and 12 National Hockey League (NHL) franchises. It is currently unclear if either of those leagues will make games available via digital and cable should Diamond be unable to.

“What we do is largely dependent on how Diamond and the creditors play their cards, what they decide to do,” continued Manfred. “Our number one goal in terms of preparations is that if for some reason Diamond isn’t broadcasting, that we want to be in a position to make sure our fans are going to get their games.”

Manfred also gave an update on the Oakland Athleticssearch for a new ballpark, stating that the franchise needed to have an agreement in place by January 2024 over whether it would stay in Oakland or move to Las Vegas.

“This year they kind of got a deadline,” he said. “They need to have an agreement in place by next January – really important from the perspective of the club.”

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