MLB Hires Regional Sports Net Execs To Start Local Media Unit

Christian Vazquez #9 of the Houston Astros hits a RBI single against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning in Game Six of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 05, 2022 in Houston, Texas.
Major League Baseball is ramping up to deliver coverage of its teams locally. (Image credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball, facing the collapse of the regional sports networks that carry its games locally, is starting up a new local media department and has hired three regional sports networks executives to staff it.

“These new hires are an important step in our preparation to address the changing landscape of MLB game distribution in light of the increasing challenges and pressure facing regional sports networks,” MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden said.

Doug Johnson was named senior VP and executive producer, local media, for MLB. Johnson had been with AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. He will be responsible for overseeing all games produced locally by MLB.

Greg Pennell joins MLB as senior VP, local media, from Bally Sports. He will be responsible for the production operations of all local MLB telecasts.

Kendall Burgess will start as VP of local media technical operations. She was VP of technical operations at Bally Sports. She will oversee technical operations for local MLB telecasts.

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“The decades of experience and expertise in game production and operations that Doug, Greg, and Kendall bring to Major League Baseball reinforces our commitment to deliver the highest quality game telecasts to our fans,” Garden said.

MLB is making the moves because the future of local broadcast is a big question mark as the opening day approaches.

Bally Sports’s parent, Diamond Sports Group, missed an interest payment on its debt and could be heading for bankruptcy. In a bankruptcy, Bally could try to reduce the payments it makes to teams for games, but MLB has said it will reclaim rights rather than take less than the contracted fees.

Warner Bros. Discovery has also told teams and leagues that it wants to get out of the regional sports network business and wants to return the rights it holds.

The regional sports networks business has been squeezed by cord-cutting, which erodes the number of people who can watch — and pay to watch — games. At the same time, sports rights fees have been rising.  

The situation could lead to lower revenue for teams and leagues. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.