Comcast drops Bally RSNs, injecting more chaos into sports TV landscape

Just as Diamond Sports Group and its Bally-based regional sports networks appeared to be making progress on a plan to emerge from bankruptcy, the process took a turn for the worse on Tuesday — and some baseball fans in 12 markets are feeling the cold.

Subscribers to Comcast and its Xfinity TV service can no longer watch any of Diamond’s 18 channels due to a carriage dispute. Diamond has 38 teams MLBthe NBA And NHLincluding 12 baseball teams: Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays And Texas Rangers.

Diamond’s battle with Comcast naturally revolves around total dollars, but much of the focus is on the level of service on which Comcast hosts Diamond’s channels. Comcast wants Diamond to appear in the premium tier.

“It’s how quickly it’s going to happen, and who is it going to happen to? Is it going to happen with new subs or is it going to happen with existing subs?” “Comcast got everyone moving at once (in other negotiations),” said media consultant Patrick Crakes, who runs a consulting firm bearing his name.

Comcast is ultimately offering much less money than it was paying before, said a person familiar with Diamond’s thinking. One person familiar with Comcast’s thinking said it wants to give consumers more choices about the content they receive.

Comcast reported 13.6 million video subscribers in the first quarter of this year.

“We have been very flexible with Diamond Sports Group for several months as they worked through their bankruptcy proceedings, offering them an extension for the regional Bally Sports networks last fall and a unilateral right to extend the term for a further year, which they chose not to do.” “The exercise,” Comcast said in a statement. “We would love to continue running their networks, but they have rejected multiple offers and now we no longer have the rights to this programming. We will proactively reimburse our customers for the costs associated with them — most of whom will automatically receive $8 to $10 a month in credits.”

“It is disappointing that Comcast rejected a proposed extension that would have kept our channels on the air and that Comcast instead pulled signals, preventing fans from watching their favorite local teams,” Diamond said in a statement. Comcast declined to participate in substantive discussions despite Diamond offered terms similar to those reached with our larger distributors We are a fan-first company and will continue to pursue an agreement with Comcast to restore streaming operations, and at this critical juncture for Diamond, we hope Comcast recognizes the important and mutually beneficial role Diamond plays. And RSNs in the media ecosystem.

MLB declined to comment.

Both the Cardinals and Twins issued statements saying they had “no voice” in the matter.

Diamond is in the middle of a lengthy bankruptcy process and a hearing to confirm a restructuring plan that could help it avoid liquidation. It is set for June. But one key to the success of this plan is Diamond reaching an agreement with major distributors, such as Comcast — something Comcast will likely benefit from. Diamond told a federal bankruptcy court in Houston that about 81 percent of its distribution revenue is tied to three companies: Charter, Comcast and DirecTV.

Deals with Charter and DirecTV have been announced, but the conflict with Comcast remains a big issue. Diamond could try to use the fact that it can close deals elsewhere as a leverage point on Comcast.

“I always thought that when it came to distribution negotiations, Comcast was going to be the toughest one,” Krix said.

The choices Diamond and Comcast make from here will impact fans’ ability to watch games immediately, but will also significantly impact the overall RSN landscape in the long term.

MLB has been skeptical all along that Diamond would be able to emerge from bankruptcy with a viable long-term plan.

“MLB and the clubs question whether the debtors will be able to demonstrate to the court that confirmation of the plan is unlikely to be followed by liquidation or additional financial reorganization,” the league said in a written court filing last month.

– The athlete‘s Katie Wu and Dan Hayes contributed to this story.


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The blackout of Twins games due to the Bally Sports-Comcast dispute is the latest blow to the team’s fans

(Photo: David Berding/Getty Images)

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