Nov 5, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; A general view of baseballs before game six of the 2022 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group continues spiraling towards bankruptcy, more details are emerging about the deteriorating relationship between Diamond and Major League Baseball.

Per a report from the Sports Business Journal, Diamond wanted referral fees for customers who bought tickets or merchandise through links on Bally Sports+. Additionally, Diamond wanted to offer different streaming packages on the service, including selling weekend games and several inning chunks of games. MLB was not enthused with either idea, claiming the referral fees were “outside of the scope of what a media rights holder should expect” and thinking that selling digital rights to alternative streaming packages shouldn’t start with Diamond.

One area where Diamond’s talks with MLB broke down was with digital rights, sources said. On its direct-to-consumer feed, Diamond wanted to link to MLB’s ticketing and merchandise sites. Similar to discount travel websites, Diamond expected to collect a fee for every customer who bought tickets or merch via their link. MLB viewed that request as outside of the scope of what a local media rights holder should expect.

Diamond also wanted to get rights to stream games in different ways, allowing it to sell packages only for the last few innings or only on weekends. MLB has not granted other media companies those rights, and sources said it is not likely to start with a distressed RSN group.

Regarding the streaming packages, MLB’s position has been firm for awhile: they’re not going to sell additional streaming rights to Diamond to help them out. Here’s what MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said back in October.

Manfred went on to describe a negotiating process that, from his perspective, was short and incomplete. According to Manfred, Diamond Sports executives told baseball that it had financial problems and wanted those additional streaming rights.

Manfred said he asked Diamond to demonstrate how the added streaming rights would solve the company’s financial problems.

“We never received a coherent response to that, which our analysis suggested that what they were looking for from us was not going to solve their problems,” Manfred said. “Our reaction has been, why tie up additional rights in an entity that by its own admission has financial problems? We just think it’s a good business decision.”

MLB has been kicking around the idea of launching their own in-market streaming service, or integrating in-market games into MLB.TV, for a bit, and it makes all the sense in the world to keep extra rights in house if the eventual plan is to do their own thing. The last thing MLB would want is for rights to be tied up with a company going through a bankruptcy that might eventually be sold and/or owned by creditors.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.