MLB Will Reportedly Stream Games for Free Should Bally Sports Renege on TV Rights Deals

San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres are one of four teams that reportedly could see its TV rights-fee payments from Diamond Sports stop. (Image credit: MaJor League Baseball)

Major League Baseball plans to use its innovative live-streaming capabilities to present games live for four of its teams should Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Bally Sports regional sports networks stop paying their TV rights. 

According to The New York Post (opens in new tab), should RSN rights fees suddenly stop for the teams, MLB is prepared to stream the games through at no cost to fans. And should everything with Bally Sports work out just fine, the league is prepared to keep the streaming service up standing permanently priced at around $15 a month. 

The Sinclair subsidiary that manages 19 Bally Sports-branded RSNs, Diamond Sports Group, is expected to enter bankruptcy protection as soon as Thursday. Sinclair and Diamond have more than $9 billion in debt tied to the Bally Sports channels, and they want to restructure their deals with banks, teams and pro leagues. 

Also: Bally Sports Bankruptcy in the Windup: Sinclair’s Diamond Misses the Pitch Clock on Its Arizona Diamondbacks TV Rights Payment

According to the Post, it's very possible that Diamond will stop paying TV rights fees to four Major League Baseball teams it is losing money on as it attempts to restructure rights deals: the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Guardians and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The MLB season starts March 30. 

On Friday, Diamond Sports conceded that it failed to pay its latest rights fee to the Diamondbacks on time. 

Diamond said it “exercised a contractual grace period in order to maximize flexibility, especially given that we do not have DTC rights. We are continuing to broadcast games and are operating our business as usual.”

Also: Rob Manfred Leads MLB Into a Season of Changes 

According to numerous published reports, Diamond is losing $20 million alone each season on its Padres deal. 

And on top of that, Diamond faces crucial pay TV carriage renewal negotiations later this year with No. 1 pay TV operator Comcast and No. 3 sized company DirecTV. 

At a press conference to mark the beginning of Spring Training in Phoenix last month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said his league would indeed terminate Bally Sports deals and step in with an alternative TV plan should rights payments be interrupted. 

One thing to keep in mind: MLB, along with Bally Sports’ other major sports league partners, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, make far more money showing their games in the pay TV ecosystem, eroded such as it is. 

Negotiations with Diamond and Sinclair are ongoing and likely heated at this very moment. Stand by for more. ▪️

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!