Game 5 World Series Marcus Semien Corey Seager Texas Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien (2) celebrates with shortstop Corey Seager (5) after hitting a two run home run during the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during game five of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field.

The Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and Cleveland Guardians will again be on Bally Sports Regional Networks in deals that put them on the air for one more season.  In addition to the nine other teams Bally’s parent Diamond Sports Group has already testified it has agreements for this season, that means 12 MLB teams will air on the RSN network.

DSG filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy nearly a year ago, and has battled with MLB over what team contracts it would cast aside and when (DSG dropped the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks last year). By early last month, it appeared DSG would wind down operations at the end of the ‘24 season and MLB’s main concern was getting Diamond to reveal which teams it planned to keep for the final season.

Then DSG struck a funding deal with Amazon, and that changed everything.  New cash is committed–both from Amazon and a proposed new loan–and DSG now appears intent on staying alive post-2024.

At a January 17 court hearing, DSG notified the court it intended to commit to nine of the 11 teams under contract for 2024 at the original terms. The nine are the Atlanta Braves, the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, the LA Angels, and the Milwaukee Brewers.  MLB still reserved judgment at that hearing, and has kept alive a motion to compel DSG to make a decision.

But by all appearances DSG has now decided with the latest news.  It filed motions this morning for the court to approve new deals with the Rangers and Guardians at restructured terms (this is likely code for a lower fee than contracted)..

“The Amendment provides for rights fee modifications and truncates the term of the Telecast Rights Agreement so that it will terminate automatically at the conclusion of the 2024 MLB season,” each motion read.

DSG also filed a motion for a deal with the Twins, whose Bally’s contract had expired following the 2023 season. 

One of MLB’s concerns is what happens if DSG runs out of money during the season.  In the motions filed this morning, DSG wrote the teams would have priority status under the bankruptcy code.

“The Amendment benefits the Debtors by, among other things, resolving the Motion to Compel as to the Rangers and allowing the Debtors to profitably broadcast Rangers’ games through the 2024 MLB season in accordance with the business plan,” DSG wrote in the Rangers motion. “The Amendment benefits the Rangers by providing them with clarity and assurances through the 2024 MLB season and allows them to transition operations to an alternative broadcaster before the start of the 2025 MLB season. “

The teams now have financial clarity–presuming court approval–of how much TV money they have coming in this season. The clubs had urged the court to compel DSG to choose the teams it would keep so they could plan for the upcoming season.  While the final decisions came just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report, that clarity has arrived.

“The Amendment provides for rights fee modifications and truncates the term of the Telecast Rights Agreement so that it will terminate automatically at the conclusion of the 2024 MLB season.”

While the Twins, Guardians and Rangers agreed to just a one year term, the other nine DSG is carrying under their original terms, meaning the expectation is to continue broadcasting them in 2025 and beyond.

What MLB does next is unknown.  It has been developing its own local media business, and wanted the rights to as many teams as possible. Of the 12, it is publicly known that five of the teams have digital rights alongside their linear rights with DSG. Whether the three that are re-upping for just 2024 includes digital is unclear.

But with Amazon on board with DSG, selling digital rights to Bally Sports likely looks a lot more attractive than when the RSN company was just offering Bally Sports +, its heavily criticized app.

“The Debtors continue to engage in discussions with MLB and certain other clubs concerning a potential resolution of the Motion to Compel as to clubs other than the Rangers,” DSG wrote in the motion. “The Rangers will be included in, and equally and ratably benefit from, any agreement that is subsequently entered into and approved by the Bankruptcy Court to provide adequate protection and assurance of future performance for the benefit of MLB and its teams.”

About Daniel Kaplan

Daniel Kaplan has been covering the business of sports for more than two decades. A proud founding reporter of SportsBusiness Journal, he spent the last four years at The Athletic.