We now know exactly when direct-to-consumer regional sports network streaming service Bally Sports+ will launch nationwide. Sinclair, the owner of the Bally Sports RSNs through subsidiary Diamond Sports Group, has had this over-the-top service in the works since their 2019 acquisition of those RSNs from Disney, and they had a soft launch of it in five markets (Bally Sports Detroit, Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Florida, Bally Sports Sun and Bally Sports Wisconsin, the five markets that have had local baseball teams sign on for this DTC service) in late June while continuing with the plan of a full fall launch ahead of the next NBA and NHL seasons (where they have full regional OTT rights for the teams on their networks). On Wednesday, Diamond announced the official full launch date across the remaining 14 markets, September 26.
Bally Sports+ is coming soon!
— Bally Sports (@BallySports) August 17, 2022
Here’s more from that release:
Diamond Sports Group, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, today announced its direct-to-consumer streaming service, Bally Sports+, will officially launch across all 19 Bally Sports regional sports network brands (RSNs) on September 26.
“Today is a significant step for the RSN industry as we offer local sports fans across our Bally Sports footprint a new way to watch their hometown teams,” said Chris Ripley, Chief Executive Officer, Sinclair Broadcast Group. “We view Bally Sports+ as a great complement to the incredible value our distribution partners provide our linear networks; and with both models, we are uniquely positioned to help our team partners grow their fan bases for years to come.”
…Michael Schneider, COO and GM, Bally Sports+, added, “Launching a streaming service like Bally Sports+ across 19 different regions, all with unique content offerings, is an unprecedented undertaking. This full introduction marks a key moment in the evolution of RSNs, but it is also a great moment for local fans who now have another viewing option for their favorite teams.”
…Starting this fall, subscribers will have access to live, local NBA and NHL broadcasts, pre- and post-game shows, regionally produced programming – including college football and basketball and high school sports – and Bally Sports’ The Rally and Live on the Line, Powered by BetMGM. At launch, subscribers can access Bally Sports+ via mobile and tablet devices operating on iOS or Android, Android TV, TvOS, and BallySports.com.
This is indeed an important moment for these RSNs, which are facing plenty of distribution challenges. In particular, they have poor carriage amongst the ranks of virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs), with only DirecTV Stream currently carrying them. So those who don’t have traditional cable or satellite packages don’t have a lot of options to access these RSNs. The Bally Sports+ service will make this available to anyone with an internet connection, as long as they’re willing to pay the price. However, because these are RSNs rather than national networks, they will still have the regional footprint restriction, as the company’s Bally Sports+ FAQ notes:
Q: Can I purchase another Bally Sports regional sports network on Bally Sports+ even if I don’t live in that market?
No, the Bally Sports+ product is another way to watch your local teams, so the same league territory restrictions apply to out-of-market games.
There are two other points of note in that FAQ. One is that while Bally Sports+ is launching in its 14 remaining markets in September, they do not yet have MLB streaming rights in those markets (versus the linear rights they do have), but they are “in discussions” on that. Another is that those subscribers in areas able to access multiple RSNs may need to pay more if they want to access both:
Q: Why can’t I find my baseball team on the app?
Bally Sports currently has the rights to stream the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays on Bally Sports+. We are in discussions with MLB and our other MLB team partners to expand our offering next year.
…Q: I live in a market with two Bally Sports regions, will I have to pay double the amount?
Additional pricing options will be made available closer to launch.
As for pricing, Sinclair is sticking with their previously-announced pricing for this, $19.99 a month or $189.99 for a year ($50 off the monthly price). But those “additional pricing options” might also include offerings around packages that run the length of the NHL season, the NBA season, or both, or some kind of other multiple-month discount. That will be worth keeping an eye on as we get closer to this full launch.