In his latest sports media newsletter, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that Diamond Sports Group, the owner and operator of the Bally Sports regional networks, will walk away from its media rights deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That means the rights will revert back to Major League Baseball and the Diamondbacks will become the second team whose rights will be taken over by the league.
At the end of May, MLB took over the rights to the San Diego Padres after Diamond Sports elected to not continue with its Bally Sports San Diego channel.
Last month, Diamond Sports and the Diamondbacks announced a delay in a bankruptcy court hearing until this week keeping the team on Bally Sports Arizona in the interim. The two sides said they were working on a deal to keep the team in the fold, however, Diamond said that it would no longer continue its contract with the Diamondbacks in its current form.
According to Phillip Swan of The TV Answer Man site, the bankruptcy court judge must still rule that the agreement between Diamond Sports and the Diamondbacks will be terminated. That should happen Tuesday, July 18.
The judge must still sign the proposed order after tomorrow’s hearing. But if he does, the termination of the agreement will be backdated to 2:02 a.m. ET today.
It appears likely the order will be approved. Another filing today from Diamond says the company and the Diamondbacks “have substantially agreed” on the proposed order.
In his newsletter, SBJ’s John Ourand writes that the judge will also rule on whether DirecTV and other pay TV providers will still be required to carry Bally Sports Arizona which lost the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury to Gray Television earlier this month.
These are the questions the judge will have to answer: Will DirecTV and other distributors still have to carry the channel — minus those two teams — at a rebated price? Or will they be allowed to carry MLB’s production at the channel position currently occupied by Bally Sports Arizona? Distributors want to make sure that they are not paying twice for the same content.
The next question is when MLB will take over and what channel position its content will be seen and what agreements MLB will have with which providers. As with the Padres, MLB will have to hit the ground running.
The Diamondbacks are in Atlanta for a series against the Braves so once the judge terminates the Diamond Sports agreement with the Diamondbacks, MLB will have just a short time to take over. Just like it did with San Diego, MLB will likely use the same announcers and production crew that were seen on Bally Sports Arizona.
It will all happen quite quickly once the bankruptcy judge makes his ruling on Tuesday.