<iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-P36XLWQ" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden">

Report: NBA ready to handle local broadcasts if Bally Sports RSNs fail

League will offer a combination of DTC streaming and local broadcasts if there is disruption.

31 Aug 2023 Steve McCaskill

Getty Images

  • 15 NBA teams have deals with Bally Sports RSNs
  • Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz have already gone DTC route
  • DSG hoping to find resolution ahead of new NBA and NHL seasons

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is reportedly ready to follow the example of Major League Baseball (MLB) and take over responsibility of local broadcasts for any team should Diamond Sports Group (DSG) be unable to fufill its contract.

As many as 15 NBA franchises have local deals with DSG’s Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs) ahead of the new season, but there is growing uncertainty surrounding the Sinclair-owned entity’s ability to find a resolution that would allow it to exit bankruptcy protection.

According to The Athletic, team owners have been told DSG has sufficient cash to make its payments to NBA teams for the upcoming season and for their fixtures to be shown on Bally Sports. Nonetheless, the league is making contingency plans.

Specifically, the NBA would handle the production of live games and offer affected teams a combination of direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming and free-to-air (FTA) broadcast distribution. The league has reportedly already made initial contact with local stations in the relevant media markets.

This would mimic the model employed by the Phoenix Suns, which took back their local rights from DSG, and the Utah Jazz which was impacted by Warner Bros Discovery’s (WBD) decision to exit the RSN space.

MLB established a local media division earlier this year and has assumed responsibility for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks’ local broadcasts, creating DTC platforms and cable services for fans.

SportsPro says…

The NBA will hope the Bally Sports saga concludes before the start of the new season in October. The 15 teams affected have no desire to see Bally Sports fail and will appreciate the certainty of revenues, while the NBA’s relationship with DSG is far more cordial than MLB’s.

Indeed, Bally Sports has streaming rights for all its partner NBA teams, while viewership figures for the league are up year-on-year. There is less danger of DSG seeking to alter the terms of its deals with NBA franchises. The Phoenix Suns departure was of their own accord rather than forced.

Yet, most within the sports industry know that the RSN model, at least in its present form, is dead. Many believe a combination of streaming and FTA is the future, with more local stations eyeing broadcast rights and tech giants interested in acquiring the streaming element. ESPN could also add local games to ESPN+.

There also remains the possibility of greater centralisation, allowing the leagues to bolster their streaming platforms.

1 / 2news articles read

Enjoying SportsPro content? Create your account and get enhanced access to all the latest stories.


Already have an account?