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MLB teams are in for a substantial change this season as Diamond Sports Group has officially declared bankruptcy.
Diamond Sports is part of Sinclair Broadcasting, and is most famously known for operating the regional Bally Sports networks.
Bally Sports broadcasts regional games for most of the major national sports leagues, namely the NBA, NHL and MLB. Several markets have all games from four teams shown on the local Bally network.
For example, the Arizona Coyotes, Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns and Mercury all rely on Bally Sports Arizona.
The Diamond Sports bankruptcy had been rumored for over a month, but was recently made official with the company declaring $8 billion in debt.
READ: DIAMOND SPORTS BROADCASTING GROUP DECLARING BANKRUPTCY NEXT WEEK, IMPACTING MLB, NBA AND NHL
The filing could have significant impacts, including MLB terminating the broadcasting deal.
Bad Timing With MLB Season About to Start
While the bankruptcy obviously affects NHL and NBA teams, those leagues have completed most of their seasons.
That means that if Diamond isn’t currently able to make their contractually obligated payments, the teams will have received a substantial portion of their expected revenue.
But MLB’s season is two weeks away, meaning that the 14 teams relying on Bally and Diamond could face financial hurdles.
Despite the long standing rumors of bankruptcy, it hasn’t seemed to bother teams like the San Diego Padres. The team went on a free agency spending spree, even with the possibility of missed payments.
For fans worried about viewing their favorite team’s games, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has already explained that the league will step in and broadcast them directly, if necessary.
On their end, Diamond claims that the Bally regional networks will continue to operate as normal.
They “will continue broadcasting games and connecting fans across the country with the sports and teams they love,” Diamond CEO David Preschlack said in a statement.
The future, however, is much more uncertain.
Cord cutting and direct-to-consumer streaming has impacted traditional television networks, even in the sports world.
Bally and Diamond have already announced their intention to pivot in that direction. But going through bankruptcy protection may lead to further delays in changing their business model.
MLB’s also said they’ll work to eliminate local blackouts, which adds more uncertainty about future rights discussions.
It’s a fascinating time in the sports broadcasting world, and this bankruptcy will only add to the intrigue.