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Sinclair Taps Randy Freer as Diamond Sports Group Board Chair, Secures $635 Million for New Bally Sports DTC Venture

Diamond Sports Group
(Image credit: Sinclair)

Sinclair Broadcast Group has tapped former Hulu and Fox executive Randy Freer to chair a new five-member “board of managers” to help oversee its Diamond Sports Group, the subsidiary that manages the broadcaster's 19 Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks. 

The board will also include David Preschlack, a former marketing executive for NBC and Disney/ESPN; Maryann Turcke, a senior adviser to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and former chief operating officer for the pro football league; and Bob Whitsitt, a longtime operations executive with both the NBA and NFL. 

Also read: Sinclair and Charter Reach Deal, Includes Bally Sports RSNs

Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley will also sit on the board, which replaces a three-member board that included David Dunn, Jason Pappas and Steve Rosenberg. 

Separately — but relatedly — Sinclair announced the closure of a new $635 million credit facility that it said will be used to help take Diamond Sports Group's 19 Bally Sports-branded RSNs over the top. 

“In the past couple of months, we have successfully closed on Diamond’s new financing to fully fund our business plan and successfully renewed programming with one of our largest distributors," Ripley said in a statement. 

Also read: Sinclair's Bally Sports Streaming Service Gets Affirmation from the Kansas City Royals

“With these open items behind us and with this impressive slate of independent directors, we are excited to focus on the continued enhancement and evolution of our distribution channels for this unique content offering,“ he said. “With the start of the full Major League Baseball season, our Bally Sports RSNs opened to strong TV audiences with household viewing impressions up versus the same period last year. This should bode well for the DTC soft launch of five RSNS with MLB teams later this quarter and then a full DTC launch this September. While the DTC pricing will be announced closer to going live, it is anticipated to have an attractive price point as compared to other similar professional sports DTC offerings.”

Also on Wednesday, during its Q1 earnings call, Sinclair said that effective March 1, it separated the financials and commentary for Diamond Sports from Sinclair’s core operations, which include the second-biggest TV station group in the U.S. as well as cable’s Tennis Channel

Sinclair paid most of the $10.6 billion it took to build its 19-network Bally Sports empire in 2019, and the broadcast group remains heavily in debt because of that bold venture. 

To mitigate the debt problem, Sinclair plans to tack onto its existing MVPD model a direct-to-consumer streaming service for the Bally Sports channels.

Sinclair reported a first-quarter revenue decline of 14.8% year-over-year to $1.29 billion. Advertising sales were in line, but distribution revenue fell over 21% to  $873 million.

Since Diamond Sports revenue was separated out a month before the quarter ended, however, comparables are skewed. ■

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!