The NBA’s direct-to-consumer Bally Sports+ streaming deal with Sinclair-owned Diamond Sports last January raised eyebrows, as it came after only five MLB teams had signed on and the rest of that league’s teams with linear deals with Diamond’s Bally Sports Networks had declined. In March, it came out that while the overall NBA deal with Diamond ran through 2024-25 (the same as the league’s national deals with ESPN and WBD), it was structured as a series of one-year deals requiring numerous conditions to be met for an extension. And now, John Ourand of Sports Business Journal (who broke the news on those one-year deals) has reported that the NBA did renew that deal recently, with Diamond meeting those conditions at that point:
The NBA re-ups its digital deal with Diamond Sports, even as the RSN owner heads towards bankruptcy,
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) February 17, 2023
An interesting part of Ourand’s piece, though, is that while Diamond met the criteria at the renewal point, their expected bankruptcy filing next month (following a decision not to make a $140 million debt payment, which started a 30-day grace period clock) would mean they no longer do:
Sources said the league quietly renewed its streaming deal with the beleaguered company recently, allowing it to continue to stream the games of 16 NBA teams locally via Bally Sports+, a streaming service it launched in September.
…At the time the NBA renewed the deal, Diamond had hit all 13 of the conditions, sources said. That includes everything from launching a streaming service to making sure Diamond has enough financing to invest in Bally Sports+.
…Diamond will breach one of the deal’s conditions, though, if it files for bankruptcy as expected in mid-March. At that point the league will be faced with a decision.
Should it take the digital rights back, which would undermine Diamond’s ability to keep its linear business healthy? Or should it leave its digital rights with Diamond to help with its restructuring, at least until the end of the deal?
So while this renewal means those streaming rights aren’t immediately vanishing, their future is certainly far from assured. And they won’t necessarily remain with Diamond all the way through 2024-25. And that could impact the overall health of Diamond, especially if the discussion of creditors’ aims of selling off the company post-bankruptcy restructuring proves accurate.
[Sports Business Journal; top Bally Sports Plus launch graphic from Diamond Sports]