The decision by Warner Bros. Discovery to get out of the RSN business, reported on Friday, sent shockwaves through the sports media landscape. Those shockwaves were most prominently felt in the Denver, Houston, and Pittsburgh markets, where the three AT&T SportsNet, home to a trio of MLB teams, operate. The deadline of the teams to reach a deal to bring their rights back from the RSNs is March 31st, the day after MLB’s Opening Day of March 30th.
MLB is already reacting to this crunch and is, per the Sports Business Journal, negotiating with distributors in those three markets to carry Astros, Pirates, and Rockies games. However, Comcast, operator of the NBC Sports RSNs and a distributor in the three most affected markets, will not be taking over the AT&T SportsNet RSNs
Even after the AT&T SportsNet RSNs shut down in Denver, Houston and Pittsburgh, an MLB source said that local fans in those markets still will be able to watch games on linear TV and, likely, streaming. MLB is prepared to produce pre- and post-game shows around those local games. Comcast’s Xfinity has systems in Denver, Houston and Pittsburgh, and it owns six NBC Sports-branded RSNs in markets where it is the dominant cable system. But sources said Comcast has no interest in expanding into AT&T SportsNet’s markets.
There are still a lot of balls up in there air here regarding these RSNs (especially when it comes to the four NBA and NHL teams whose rights are held by the Pittsburgh, Rocky Mountain, and Southwest RSNs), but MLB at least seems to be moving towards a solution. In fact, SBJ’s story notes that MLB and WBD “have been in talks about this type of move for a while.”
Throughout this article, the fourth WBD RSN hasn’t been mentioned at all. Root Sports Northwest is majority owned by the Mariners, and AT&T SportsNet president Patrick Crumb said to the Seattle Times that “none of it impacts ROOT Sports Northwest or its teams,” when talking about the shutdown. That’s good news for the Mariners, Kraken, and Blazers, with Crumb calling operations at Root Sports Northwest “business as usual.”