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

While Diamond Sports Group and its Bally Regional Sports Networks appeared to be making progress in their plan to emerge from bankruptcy, the process took a turn for the worse Tuesday — and some baseball fans in 12 markets are out in the cold.

Subscribers to Comcast and its Xfinity TV service can no longer watch any of Diamond’s 18 channels due to a carriage conflict. Diamond has 38 teams in the MLB, NBA and NHL, including 12 baseball teams: the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, the Cleveland Guardians, the Detroit Tigers, the Kansas City Royals, the Angels of Los Angeles, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.

Diamond’s fight with Comcast naturally focuses on the total amount, but much of the focus is on the level of service on which Comcast hosts Diamond’s channels. Comcast wants Diamond to appear at a premium level.

“It’s about how quickly is this going to happen, and who is it going to happen to? Is this going to happen with the new submarines or is this going to happen with the current submarines? said media consultant Patrick Crakes, who runs an eponymous consultancy. “Comcast was able to move everyone at the same time (in other negotiations).”

A person briefed on Diamond’s thinking said Comcast ultimately offered far less money than before. A person briefed on Comcast’s thinking said it wants to give consumers more choice in 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 months as they worked through their bankruptcy proceedings, offering them an extension of Bally Sports’ regional networks last fall and a unilateral right to extend the term of a additional year, which they chose not to do. exercise,” Comcast said in a statement. “We would like to continue to carry their networks, but they have declined several offers and now we no longer have the rights to that programming. We will proactively credit our customers for their associated costs – most will automatically receive $8 to $10 per month in credits.

Diamond said in a statement: “It is disappointing that Comcast rejected an expansion proposal that would have kept our channels on the air and that Comcast instead pulled the signals, preventing fans from watching their favorite local teams. Comcast declined to engage in substantive discussions although Diamond offered terms similar to those with our much larger distributors. We are a fan-driven company and will continue to pursue an agreement with Comcast to restore broadcasts. At this critical juncture for Diamond, we hope that Comcast recognizes the important and mutually beneficial role that Diamond and RSNs play in the media ecosystem.

MLB declined to comment.

The Cardinals and Twins both released statements saying they had “no voice” on the matter.

Diamond is in the middle of a lengthy bankruptcy proceeding and a confirmation hearing on a restructuring plan that could help it avoid liquidation is scheduled for June. But one of the keys to this plan’s success is Diamond striking a deal with major distributors, such as Comcast – something Comcast could potentially leverage. Diamond told the federal bankruptcy court in Houston that about 81 percent of its distribution revenue was tied to three companies: Charter, Comcast and DirecTV.

Deals with Charter and DirecTV have both been announced, but the fight with Comcast nonetheless remains a major issue. Diamond could try to leverage its ability to strike deals elsewhere to put pressure on Comcast.

“I always thought that when it came to these carriage negotiations, Comcast would be the most difficult,” Crakes said.

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

MLB has always been skeptical of Diamond’s ability 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 further financial reorganization,” the league said in a written filing to the court last month.

– AthleticismIt is Katie Woo and Dan Hayes contributed to this story.


Blackout of Twins games due to Bally Sports-Comcast dispute, latest blow to team’s fans


For now, MLB’s streaming plans hinge on Diamond Sports Group’s bankruptcy filing

(Photo: David Berding/Getty Images)

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