MLB Hires Sinclair Exec To Manage Local Media Rights

Los Angeles Dodgers player Justin Turner during a 2019 regular season game.
Los Angeles Dodgers player Justin Turner during a 2019 regular season game. (Image credit: Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

Major League Baseball said it hired Sinclair Broadcast Group regional sports network executive Billy Chambers as executive VP, media and business development.

In his newly created role, Chambers will oversee the management and distribution of MLB’s local media rights, working closely with the league’s 30 teams.

The move comes as MLB and Sinclair’s Bally Sports Networks have wrestled over local streaming and direct-to-consumer rights.

With cord-cutting eroding cable and satellite subscribers, regional sports networks have been getting squeezed and are seen as unlikely to be able to continue to pay the big bucks they’ve been spending on local TV rights to baseball games.

Sinclair ran up about $9 billion in debt buying the 21 Fox Sports RSNs from The Walt Disney Co. The RSNs -- rebranded as Bally Sports Network -- are now operated by Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group unit, which has been separated from the main company financially.

Diamond Sports also last year named a new CEO, former ESPN and NBC Sports executive David Preschlack, in a bid to build better relationships with rights holders including MLB.

Chambers was chief financial officer and chief operations officer for the Bally Sports RSNs. He was with them when they were acquired by Sinclair and assisted Disney in making the sale. (Disney acquired the Fox RSNs when it acquired 21st Century Fox.)

Chambers spent 20 years with Fox Sports Media Group, where he was CFO, overseeing Fox Sports, the RSNs, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network and Fox Deportes. He negotiated rights deals with MLB, the NBA and the NHL, as well as team rights.

“Billy is an important addition to Major League Baseball and will play an integral role in how we navigate the rapidly evolving local media landscape in the future,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said. “Billy’s extensive knowledge and experience in all areas of regional sports network operations will help us maximize the reach of our game in the clubs’ local markets.”

MLB also promoted Kenny Gersh to executive VP, media and business development.

Chambers will work closely with Gersh, whose role has expanded to include oversight of all of MLB’s national and international media rights, distribution, and production.

Gersh joined MLB in 2006 as an executive at MLB Advanced Media, the interactive media company of MLB.

Chambers and Gersh report to MLB CRO Noah Garden. ■

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.