It sure doesn’t seem like more MLB teams will be available on Bally Sports+ in six months.
Speaking at the CAA World Congress of Sports via the Sports Business Journal, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that MLB was “digging our feet in” when it came to the streaming rights because the league “never received a coherent response” from the Sinclair-owned Diamond Sports about how the digital rights would help Diamond financially.
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.”
Bally Sports+ soft launched over the summer with the rights to five MLB teams, the Brewers, Marlins, Rays, Royals, and Tigers. A full launch came last month with rights to the full slate of NBA and NHL teams whose games air on the Bally Sports RSNs. The NBA’s deal, as reported earlier this year, is “a series of one-year contracts” with various thresholds that must be hit each year (including every owed rights fee being paid), while the NHL’s deal is described as a “multi-year” pact.
But aside from the five teams who included their digital rights in new carriage deals with Sinclair, MLB has been a tougher nut to crack. Last year, it was reported that MLB wanted to launch their own in-market streaming service and was working with RSNs to get something off the ground, while earlier this year, a member of the league’s braintrust discussed wanting to integrate in-market streaming into MLB.TV. MLB also pushed back on Sinclair’s plans for Bally Sports+ last year, asking for a stake in the service months before it even launched.
Needless to say, it makes sense for baseball to keep these rights in house, especially if Bally Sports+ flops after its national launch. Sure, that might not be the best outcome for fans, but it does seem like the smarter business move.