The Bally Sports-branded Diamond Sports (initially majority owned by Sinclair, their ownership is a little more uncertain right now given the current Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings) regional sports networks have faced a lot of turmoil over the past few months. And much of that is about their payments (or lack thereof) to MLB teams where they have rights deals. Those RSNs have missed some particular payments, including with the Minnesota Twins, the Texas Rangers, the Cleveland Guardians, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. And last week, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez ordered that they must make 50 percent payments to those four aforementioned teams:
Judge says Diamond Sports must make partial rights payments to four Major League Baseball teams https://t.co/9EL4ge1UqK
— TheDesk.net (@TheDeskDotNet) April 21, 2023
Here’s more on that from that FierceVideo post, by Matthew Keys:
A federal judge overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case of Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group has ordered the regional sports broadcaster to fork over at least half of the licensing rights payments that it owes to four of five Major League Baseball (MLB) teams.
The order came the same week that the fifth team — the Texas Rangers — filed an emergency motion complaining Diamond Sports had not made its licensing payments on time, despite broadcasting games since the start of this year’s baseball season in late March.
…On Wednesday, U.S. Judge Christopher Lopez decided to meet both sides in the middle, ordering Diamond Sports to pay the Rangers and three other teams — the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cleveland Guardians and the Minnesota Twins — at least half of its most-recently missed payments. A matter involving a missed licensing payment to the Cincinnati Reds was not resolved this week.
While this doesn’t cover the Reds’ issue (which could see some rights reversion soon, at least according to reports), it is notable to see this ordered for those other four teams. That comes amidst recent Diamond attempts to lower payments to three of those teams. And it’s perhaps particularly interesting to see that with the Diamondbacks, who have largely been held separately here thanks to the initial missed payment to them coming before Diamond’s bankruptcy filing.
And while a judge’s order should generally be enough to compel a payment, it makes some sense to confirm that in a bankruptcy as strange as this one has been. And this is a bankruptcy where many obligations have gone unfulfilled. But AA has confirmed that 50 percent payments have been made to the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Guardians, and Twins. Here’s more on that from a Sportico piece last week, by Anthony Crupi and Michael McCann:
Judge Lopez encouraged the two sides to “come up with a number or a percentage” to address their payment debate. He also warned that he’ll be quick to intervene should they fail to reach an agreement on terms. “There is a number that works, [and] you’ll know much better than I would what that number is,” Judge Lopez said. “If you come back to me, I’m just going to pick a number, and I hope you don’t leave it in my hands.”
The judge went on to clarify that he wanted Diamond “to provide the teams some payment” but stressed that number should neither “be used as a negotiating point” nor “a leverage tactic to withhold as much as cash as possible in hopes of seeking concessions.”
Lopez added, “I’m not concerned about [teams’] financial stability,” but he believed he should follow “what we would normally do” in a reorganization situation, which is to “pay the uncontested and reserve for the disputed portion of it.”
We’ll see what this leads to for these teams and these networks, and we’ll also see what happens with the not-yet-covered Reds.