Sinclair Broadcasting has rebranded its regional sports networks as Bally Sports, but it has yet to help the fledgling localized channels from a financial standpoint. Just the opposite, actually.
Per Anthony Crupi of Sportico, Sinclair is still on the hook for a massive $1.82 billion in rights fees for its RSNs.
Sinclair’s RSNs, purchased from Disney in 2019, have been decimated financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as being dropped by the Dish Network, YouTube TV, Hulu and FuboTV — almost entirely robbing them of an audience for local MLB, NBA and NHL broadcasts.
Along with that, “the Sinclair unit that runs the RSNs, Diamond Sports Group, this spring shelled out nearly $85 million to extend rights with MLB’s Brewers and Marlins,” Crupi reported. “Last summer, the Royals came to terms on a renewal valued at $50 million per year with Diamond affiliate Bally Sports Kansas City. Other renewals, including what promises to be a pricey re-up with the NBA’s Clippers, are in the wings.”
This news has also impacted sponsorships and advertising. Basically, it’s taking a massive nosedive.
“I used to say that the RSN model is good for five to 10 years, but I have to modify that,” a sports net programming chief told Crupi. “COVID will have a more lasting impact on sports than perhaps we’d anticipated. The RSNs are not in a great spot right now—along with the battle with distributors, the advertisers are not clamoring back.”
“The impact of the last 14 months has been profound, but let’s face it, the next six to 12 months may be too much to come back from.”
Sinclair’s RSNs were previously owned by FOX Sports and included a lineup of FOX Sports South, FOX Sports West, FOX Sports Ohio, FOX Sports Oklahoma, the YES Network in New York and multiple others that now carry the Bally Sports name.