Bally Sports channels pulled off lineup by Comcast

Bally Sports channels operated by distributor Comcast were discontinued at the beginning of May after Comcast and Diamond Sports Group, Bally’s bankrupt operator, failed to agree on a new contract, leaving Major League Baseball fans across the country without the ability to watch their local teams. .

Diamond Sports Group originally agreed to a six-month extension with Comcast in the fall, but was unable to agree on a new multi-year contract by the time the deal expired Tuesday night, prompting Comcast to pull the plug on its Bally Sports channels.

Diamond Sports Group secured multi-year deals with its two largest distributors: Charter and DirecTV as of Wednesday. But it was also hoping to reach an agreement with Comcast before its June confirmation hearing in bankruptcy court. Failure to do so could significantly jeopardize Diamond’s ability to emerge from bankruptcy.

Diamond Sports Group, which originally filed for restructuring in March 2023, operates 18 networks, many of which are distributed by Comcast under the Xfinity brand. Diamond Sports Group reserves the line rights to the following 12 MLB teams: Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Guardians, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays And Milwaukee Brewers.

Comcast’s presence varies widely in the above markets. For example, baseball fans in Southern California are affected much less than in the southeastern United States. Diamond Sports Group holds the broadcast rights to the Marlins, Rays, Royals and Tigers, giving fans of those teams an alternative viewing option. Local fans of the other eight teams who subscribe to Comcast are currently unable to watch games that are not nationally selected.

MLB is unable to lift the blackout restrictions on those teams through its streaming service, MLB.TV, because it would qualify as a breach of the teams’ contracts with Diamond Sports Groups. MLB was only able to lift the blackout for San Diego Padres And the Arizona Diamondbacks Once their deals fail.

The impact is minimal to none for the NBA and NHL right now, with both postseason and national leagues broadcasting games.

As part of a statement, a representative for Diamond Sports Group wrote: “It is disappointing that Comcast declined a proposed extension that would have kept our channels on the air and that Comcast has indicated it intends to pull signals, preventing fans from watching their favorite channels.” The local teams have refused to engage in substantive discussions despite Diamond offering terms similar to those reached with our larger distributors. A turning point for Diamond, we hope Comcast will recognize the important and mutually beneficial role Diamond and [regional sports networks] Playing in the media ecosystem.”

Comcast’s desire to immediately put the Bally Sports teams into a higher, more expensive tier was widely known throughout the industry and ultimately became a major obstacle to the deal, sources familiar with the situation said. Comcast is currently offering customers $8 to $10 in credits per month as a result of not carrying Bally Sports channels.

In a statement, a Comcast representative wrote that the company had been “very flexible with Diamond Sports Group for several months as it worked through the bankruptcy proceedings, providing it with an extension for Bally Sports’ regional networks last fall and a unilateral right to extend the bankruptcy contract.” For another year, they have chosen not to do it, and we would like to continue operating their networks, but they have declined multiple offers and we now no longer have the rights to that programming.

A Diamond representative said the company remains open to negotiations.

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