During an earnings call on Wednesday, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley discussed the launch of the company’s upcoming Bally Sports direct to consumer app.
In the call, Ripley said that Sinclair expects the app to soft launch in the first half of 2022 with access to the five MLB teams whose digital rights Sinclair own. Back in November, there were only four teams on that list – the Brewers, Marlins, Royals, and Tigers. I have zero idea who the fifth team is – the Cubs are technically not a Bally Sports team and have their own DTC plans.
The fifth team could be the reigning World Champion Atlanta Braves, who talked about locking in a higher rights fee from Sinclair weeks after the end of the 2021 season. Selling off the digital rights could be the cause of that extra cash. However, Ripley said later on in his call that Sinclair had acquired the fifth team’s rights “just this January,” which doesn’t track with the Braves’ comments. The Rays, who re-upped before Sinclair took over, probably missed the boat, but they could have gone back to the table, given how recently the deal got done. The same is true for the Cardinals and Reds, though they’re even further out than Tampa Bay. The Guardians and Twins both have deals expiring in the next year or so, and you’d imagine their digital rights will be part of those deals, rather than being done ahead of time.
Anyway, back to business. Following his comments about the soft launch, Ripley said that Sinclair expects to roll out the rest of the RSNs in the second half of 2022, which would put it out of reach for the remainder of the 2021-22 NBA and NHL seasons and in target for the start of the 2022-23 seasons. Sinclair struck deals with the NBA and NHL teams on its networks for their digital rights in recent months, and at the time, I said it made sense to focus on getting the service live for the start of their next seasons, rather than for the final month or so of their current seasons.
There’s still no news on pricing yet (which shouldn’t be a surprise), but once there is, we’ll let you know.