Diamond Sports Group’s march towards bankruptcy is expected to end with a filing sometime this week. There has been no shortage of speculation about what will happen to the Bally Sports RSNs and the teams whose games air on those RSNs following the bankruptcy, and this weekend, the New York Post added another round of musings to the heap.
Per the Post, Diamond will “reject the contracts” of a minimum of four teams during its bankruptcy proceedings. The mentioned teams are the Diamondbacks, Guardians, Padres, and Reds. Last week, the Sports Business Journal reported that a rights payment from Diamond to the Diamondbacks was late, while the publication also mentioned that the Guardians, Padres, and Reds all had deals which “greatly favor the teams.”
The Post initially reported in December that Diamond “will likely” reject unprofitable contracts during bankruptcy proceedings, which the company called “unequivocally false”.
If the four teams lose their RSN homes, the Post claims MLB will step in and take over production and distribution of the games (which commissioner Rob Manfred said in February), streaming them for free locally until a deal is reached with cable operators to carry the games (on a platform or channel to be named later).
It’s worth noting that media rights don’t immediately revert to the teams in the event of a bankruptcy filing, and MLB would need to win back those rights in court. SBJ reported last week that during the bankruptcy, Diamond is expected to “continue producing and carrying those games.” Of course, that would likely be moot if Diamond rejects the contracts, a possibility repeatedly floated by the Post.
Last month, SBJ reported that Warner Bros. Discovery was getting out of the RSN game as of March 31st. MLB is negotiating with distributors to keep the three teams affected (Astros, Pirates, Rockies) on the air, and is expected to produce shoulder programming in addition to the games themselves.
For now, my advice to fans of teams whose games air on the Bally Sports RSNs remains the same – relax and wait. The world is not going to immediately collapse on the Bally Sports RSNs when Diamond files for bankruptcy this week. It will take months more likely than week for the dust to settle and for the future of RSNs to become clearer.