An ugly dispute between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Major League Baseball appears to have prompted a management change among the Bally’s Sports networks that operate in 19 U.S. markets.
According to a paywalled article at Sportico, Diamond Sports, the sports vertical of Sinclair, held a board meeting Sunday in which members voted to block the Sinclair parent company from having any further input into day-to-day operations of the regional sports networks.
Diamond also has named David Preschlack, a former president of the NBC Sports Regional Networks (RSN) division, to oversee Bally’s sports networks going forward. The two moves taken in tandem are viewed by many industry watchers as a possible solution to the fight between the company and MLB over how much it must pay for streaming rights.
Diamond may have overplayed its hand when it launched Bally Sports+ in June while having the streaming rights to just five MLB teams. Diamond Sports and MLB have been negotiating the deal for more than a year, according to Sports Business Journal, and the sides haven’t made much progress.
High carriage rates have long been a sticking point between RSNs and cable companies, causing some to no longer air games being played by local teams. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, are blacked out on most cable networks in Southern California. In addition, many broadcast companies are finding that streaming services aren’t picking up the slack to make up for diminishing cable revenue.
What does any of this have to do with sports gambling? Remember that Bally’s agreed to pay $88 million over 10 years for the right to rename the RSNs owned by Sinclair from FOX Sports to Bally’s just in time for the start of the 2019 baseball season.
The company, which owns 11 casinos across seven states, a horse track and 13 authorized OTB licenses in Colorado, as well as a mobile sportsbook platform, was hoping to gain positive brand exposure in the deal, but instead has been sucked into the rancor between Sinclair and MLB.
Bally’s, meanwhile, has struggled to gain much of a foothold in the mobile betting market nationally. According to Jordan Bender of JMP Securities, Bally’s had just a 0.1% download share in Week 13 of this NFL season. That compares to a 0.2% share in Week 13 of last season.
For all parties, including sports fans in markets with Bally’s RSNs, let’s hope the sides can work out their differences. At least they appear to be trying.
ESPN still mulling sports betting plans
We wrote in this space two weeks ago about Bob Iger’s return to Disney and how some media industry observers were probably overreaching by suggesting it could mean ESPN (which is primarily Disney-owned) no longer plans to engage fully in legal sports betting.
We still don’t have concrete proof that’s the case, but at a conference last week, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro explained that longstanding talks with a sportsbook won’t result in a deal imminently, but also aren’t dead.
“We’ve been exploring. We’ve had conversations with all the usual suspects, looking at what could be the logical next step for us,” Pitaro said. “We are not going to, and I’ve said this repeatedly, we’re not going to create a book. We’re not going to take people’s money. We’re not going to set lines, spreads, and odds, it’s not what we do. The idea of leaning in a bit more here, creating a more seamless experience, it’s something that’s definitely on the table.”
For years now, ESPN has been one of the most watched companies in the gambling sphere, as the sports broadcast giant has the potential to roil the industry considerably whenever it dives in. Stay tuned.
Social media rumblings
Colleague Bennett Conlin has an excellent story on how sports bettors can best use Twitter and other forms of social media. It explores what happens when a team account posts something that proves to be inaccurate, such as when the Chicago Bears’ media relations team tweeted what proved to be inaccurate information about an impending game’s starting quarterback.
Sharp bettors looking to react quickly to gain an edge really have to know which accounts to trust, and that’s getting harder and harder.
This week offered yet another example: As Aaron Judge’s free agency heated up in the days and hours before he agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal to stay with the New York Yankees, veteran MLB reporter Jon Heyman of the New York Post tweeted that Judge “appeared” to be heading to the San Francisco Giants.
People who jumped on Giants futures as soon as Heyman’s tweet — or someone’s reaction to it — hit their timelines probably wish they hadn’t now. The Giants’ biggest hot-stove splash so far was the signing of Mitch Haniger.
Never doubt Carlos Baerga pic.twitter.com/Qf9IxBffbB
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) December 5, 2022
We also got an example of how people we wouldn’t expect to break news sometimes do. That happened when former Mets player Carlos Baerga broke the news, on Instagram, that Justin Verlander had agreed to a two-year, $86.5 million deal to join the New York Mets, which proved to be entirely accurate.
Bottom line: When your money is at stake, be sure you know whom to trust and when to trust them when it comes to breaking news.