Sinclair's Bally Sports Streaming Service Gets Affirmation from the Kansas City Royals
But the launch of the DTC service likely won't arrive until later this summer, a report says
Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals will join the Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays in participating in a groundbreaking new direct-to-consumer live-sports streaming service being launched by Sinclair Broadcast Group (Bally Sports Plus).
But according to the paywalled Kansas City Star, which broke the news about the Royals, Sinclair's Bally Sports-branded streaming service won't launch until the summer, with the 2022 MLB season already months in.
Also read: Tradition-Bound Baseball Is Streaming Into the Future
Speaking to reporters amid the Royals' spring-training activities in Surprise, Arizona earlier this week, team Chairman and CEO John Sherman noted the need for franchises like the Royals to be able to reach their fans via streaming.
“Reach is more important than revenue for us in baseball," said Sherman, who was quoted by several Kansas City media outlets, including the Star. "... We want to make it easy for people to connect and see our games.”
In blessing Sinclair's DTC plan, Sherman and the Royals are deviating from the desires of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who last winter expressed doubt that Sinclair could assemble a critical mass of sports rights needed to hoist its DTC ambitions. Manfred wants to see MLB stream its games more, too, but he prefers a more unified approach among the league's franchises.
At least right now, reach isn't great for the smaller-market Royals, coming off a middling 74-88 season in 2021, and rarely shown on national TV.
That leaves Sinclair-owned Bally Sports Kansas City, the regional sports network that the Royals license their local TV rights to, as the main viewing option for local fans. But the number of pay TV operators carrying that RSN is dwindling.
Google Fiber is winding down its TV service and will no longer be available in the region after April. Satellite TV operator Dish Network decided not to include the Bally Sports RSN in its renewal deal in November to re-up retransmission rights to 144 Sinclair stations. And notably, a one-month negotiating extension with Charter Communications, carved out 22 day ago, is coming up.
As for streaming Royals games, the options are down to virtual pay TV service DirecTV Stream, with major vMVPDs YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV no longer carrying Ball Sports channels.
Manfred's desires aside, other teams are arriving at the same conclusions about "reach" that Sherman has come to.
Last week, for example, it was reported that the Chicago Cubs -- who are 50-50 stakeholders with Sinclair in RSN Marquee Sports Network -- are aiming to hoist their own DTC service by 2023, with Sinclair being a potential partner.
As for Sinclair, it assembled a collection of 19 Bally Sports RSNs, managed by the company's Diamond Sports subsidiary, mainly through side acquisitions of the Fox Sports channels amid Disney's huge purchase of Fox.
But it all came with an accumulation of debt, totaling nearly $10 billion.
Sinclair has pitched DTC distribution to its investors as a salve for its debt problem. And it has defied the skepticism of equity analysts in carving out DTC streaming rights deals with NBA and NHL teams licensed under its Bally Sports umbrella.
With the addition of the Royals, Sinclair is one more MLB team closer, as well. ■
NEXT TV NEWSLETTER
The smarter way to stay on top of the streaming and OTT industry. Sign up below.
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!