Bally Sports Bankruptcy: Everything you need to know – April 2024

For months, we’ve been hearing about how Bally Sports and more specifically, it’s parent-company, Diamond Sports Group, is struggling with cash. Diamond Sports Group (who also has a parent-company, in Sinclair) has already started missing interest payments on the debt it acquired from Disney after it acquired Fox. It has also missed out on payments to some of the sports leagues.

Sinclair and DSG are reportedly attempting to negotiate with creditors to work out a deal to avoid bankruptcy. But it doesn’t look like the company has had a lot of success in doing that just yet. And with the deadline looming, it looks very likely that Bally Sports could file for bankruptcy, and that the networks would go dark.

So let’s talk about what happens if DSG does declare bankruptcy. What would happen to your local sports? What are the leagues’ back-up plans?

What is an RSN?

First off, let’s define what an RSN actually is. It stands for Regional Sports Network, and it is essentially a channel that is dedicated to professional sports teams in a specific market. For example, I live in the Detroit market, so I get Bally Sports Detroit. Which is home to the Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons. Now it will also have some other games, like some high school games and other special events. But it is mainly home to the Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons. Basically, any game that is not nationally televised, is aired on Bally Sports Detroit.

RSNs are important for the MLB, NHL and NBA, because there are so many games in a season, compared to the NFL which doesn’t utilize RSNs. The NFL, for example, has 17 regular season games, and 3 pre-season games. Meanwhile the NBA and NHL have 82 games, and the MLB has 162 games in a single season. That’s a lot of games, and way to many for a group of nationally televised channels to broadcast. And that’s where these RSNs come into play.

What is Bally Sports?

Bally Sports is actually the successor to Fox Sports RSNs which were part of the deal when Disney bought Fox in 2019. However, in order to get regulatory approval, Disney needed to divest the Fox Sports RSNs, since it already owned ESPN. So, Sinclair stepped in and picked up the RSNs, and eventually renamed them to Bally Sports. An interesting name, seeing as they licensed that name from Bally.

Bally Sports has 19 networks, and is the largest RSN operator in the US. Here’s the full list:

  • Bally Sports Arizona
  • Bally Sports Detroit
  • Bally Sports Florida
  • Bally Sports Great Lakes
  • Bally Sports Indiana
  • Bally Sports Kansas City
  • Bally Sports Midwest
  • Bally Sports New Orleans
  • Bally Sports North
  • Bally Sports Ohio
  • Bally Sports Oklahoma
  • Bally Sports San Diego
  • Bally Sports SoCal
  • Bally Sports South
  • Bally Sports Southeast
  • Bally Sports Southwest
  • Bally Sports Sun
  • Bally Sports West
  • Bally Sports Wisconsin

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Bally Sports owner files for bankruptcy

On March 14, 2023, Bally Sports owner, Diamond Sports Group officially filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. The company has agreed to terms with the majority of its creditors to help eliminate over $8 billion in debt. This clears the way for the company to restructure and attempt to continue broadcasting games.

Almost a year after initially filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, Bally Sports has submitted its official reorganization plan to the court that is overseeing the plan. It’s a 91-page re-org plan with an eye toward the April 17 hearing.

As part of the plan, Diamond will extricate itself from the legacy naming-rights deal with Bally’s Corp, that it’s parent company (Sinclair Broadcasting) inked on November 18, 2020. Diamond will be able to use the Bally’s name at no cost to Diamond through the end of the 2024 MLB season. This move means a major renaming overhaul is coming soon. Not only for the Bally Sports RSNs but also for Bally Sports Plus.

Diamond also is looking to nail down long-term deals with its three biggest distributors – DirecTV, Charter and Comcast. Around 81% of Diamond’s distribution revenue comes from those three operators, which serves around 39.5 million domestic video subscribers.

Diamond is still in talks with 12 MLB clubs, and that will likely be a slog. As MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred wants to launch an in-house streaming service, cutting Diamond’s Bally Sports out entirely. But the plans may be complicated, because Diamond has already renegotiated in-market streaming deals for the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, and Tampa Bay Rays.

The bankruptcy is far from over, but things are starting to move along.

Will Bally Sports shutdown during bankruptcy?

DSG has said that they will continue to broadcast games as they were before bankruptcy. So nothing should really change. At least at this point. DSG will continue to air games for the 42 teams that it has the broadcast rights to.

“DSG will continue broadcasting games and connecting fans across the country with the sports and teams they love,” Diamond CEO David Preschlack said. “The financial flexibility attained through this restructuring will allow DSG to evolve our business while continuing to provide exceptional live sports productions for our fans.”

Will the MLB, NBA and NHL stream in-market games if Bally Sports can no longer broadcast?

All three leagues have announced that they do have plans to stream games in-market, if Bally Sports is unable to complete the contract with each league.

However, the MLB, NBA and NHL are all hoping that Bally Sports will continue to complete their contract with them. These leagues have no real interest in streaming in-market games on MLB.TV, NBA League Pass or NHL.TV, and that’s because they make a whole lot more money from Bally Sports. Currently, Bally Sports pays the leagues a pretty big paycheck each month for the rights to these teams.

Bally Sports did drop 4 MLB teams

It was announced that Bally Sports did reject the new contracts for Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians and the San Diego Padres. So those four teams will not be available on Bally Sports networks.

How can I stream those games if it happens?

If Bally Sports is unable to fulfill their contract, then the leagues do have plans to stream games. Baseball games would be on MLB.TV, basketball on NBA League Pass and NHL games might go to ESPN+. Since the NHL does have a deal with ESPN+ for streaming already.

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What does this mean for sports? Are RSNs dead?

It’s a wait and see type of thing right now for Bally Sports. But it seems like either they will declare bankruptcy and Scripps will swoop in and take on the RSNs, or they are able to renegotiate their contracts and pay less for the streaming rights.

When Sinclair took on Bally Sports RSNs, they also took on a lot of debt, so this isn’t all on Sinclair. But, removing Bally Sports from streaming services like FuboTV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV for nearly two years, before launching Bally Sports Plus definitely did not help. Not to mention the fact that sports are expensive.

RSNs aren’t quite dead yet, especially after Scripps has acknowledged that they’d be interested in taking on Bally Sports. But this could facilitate a faster move to streaming for Sports. What’s really kept the leagues from doing this is, the big TV deals that they have with channels like Fox, CBS, ESPN, Peacock, Apple TV Plus, Amazon Prime Video and many others. But this bankruptcy is forcing them to bring up back up plans. And potentially make it easier for cord-cutters to get in on regional sports.