Sinclair Broadcast Group said it plans to launch its direct-to-consumer product in the five markets where it has rights to stream baseball teams in the first half of 2022.
Sinclair said that following rights renewals with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, its Bally Sports regional sports networks have rights to launch DTC products involving 33 teams.
The remaining DTC products will be launched in the second half of the year, when the next basketball and hockey seasons will start.
Analysts and other observers have questioned whether Sinclair will be able to launch the DTC products it has been talking about for more than a year.
“As you can imagine, this is a large project with many internal work streams occurring simultaneously to allow us to meet our launch targets,” Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said on Sinclair’s earnings call Wednesday morning. “The potential market for a DTC product is significant as approximately 83 million households reside in the territories for which we currently have DTC rights.”
Ripley noted a Morning Consult poll in which 36% of U.S. adults said they would be interested in subscribing to a regional sports network on a standalone streaming service regardless of price.
Ripley said the DTC product would offer subscribers more than a way for people without traditional pay TV packages to access games.
“It is the start of a new paradigm for how fans can watch and engage with their local teams,” he said. It will be more personalized and interactive, he said, giving viewers a chance to interact with each other. It will also make nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and e-commerce available.
Sinclair launched an NFT store last week.
Sinclair and the Bally Sports RSNs will also be introducing gaming, not only on the app but on all platforms.
Those games will include daily fantasy sports and, where legal, real-money games with substantial prizes.
Coming up on Bally Sports is a Bally Baller basketball game and a Bally Breakaway hockey game that will offer viewers a chance to win up to $250,000, Ripley said.
Sinclair’s Tennis Channel is launching a new predictive game in March around the Indian Wells tournament.
For the upcoming NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, Sinclair and Bally’s are preparing a Big Bracket Challenge. Ripley said that game will offer one of the biggest prizes ever offered — $100 million if someone picks a perfect bracket.
Ripley said that Sinclair will be able to pay for the launch of its DTC product in part by $635 million it is raising from its current creditors. Ripley said that offering has started and that the company’s Diamond Sports unit already has enough commitments to ensure it will be successful. ■
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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.