Is Major League Baseball on the path to broadcasting many of its games without the help of any regional sports networks?
Speculation in the industry lately is that that could be the upshot of Diamond Sports Group’s distressed financial position, with Bloomberg reporting that the company is on the verge of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Because MLB teams are among the company’s primary creditors, they could be positioned to take over broadcasting many of their games direct-to-consumer via streaming on MLB.com and local media rights.
According to Bloomberg, Diamond Sports Group has just $585 million in cash on hand with over $2 billion in media rights fees to pay out in coming months. Diamond operates 19 regional sports networks nationwide under the Bally Sports name. It is a division of the Sinclair Broadcasting conglomerate that has deals with various MLB, NHL, and NBA teams.
All told, Sinclair has exclusive local rights to 42 professional teams, including 14 MLB clubs, among them the St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers, and Cleveland Guardians.
New hire could oversee transition
Sinclair bought the networks from Disney in 2019 for $10.6 billion and changed the names from FOX Sports to Bally Sports after the casino operator worked out a naming-rights deal with Sinclair. Bally’s Corp. owns 15 casinos and a mobile sports betting app, Bally Bet, which has a yearly handle of roughly $40 billion, according to the company website.
Major League Baseball likely is exploring the possibility of striking out on its own, as it just hired former Sinclair and FOX Media Group executive Billy Chambers for the new position of executive vice president, local media. If this scenario comes to fruition, teams could control the content fans consume even more, which might be good for their business, but bad for viewers looking to get the whole story.
It’s a little early to tell what such a massive change in local sports broadcasting would do for the sports betting industry, but it’s fair to say it would be impactful. Major League Baseball has multi-year partnerships with FanDuel and DraftKings, so at the very least, the broadcasts could get odds from those books rather than Bally Bet or elsewhere.
Baseball is also in an enviable position in regard to microbetting, one of the fastest-growing segments of the sports betting market, due to its relaxed pace of play. One bold play could be for MLB to try to launch a watch-and-play experience that doesn’t exist in most sports these days, largely due to latency issues with broadcasts.
Bally Sports had begun ramping up its betting content in recent years. A year ago, the networks launched their first sports betting program, Live on the Line, which features BetMGM odds as well as celebrity and brand ambassadors from that operator. Given MLB’s embrace of sports betting in recent years, it’s unlikely the league would try to put the genie back in the bottle, but sports bettors should keep tabs on the latest developments. They will have massive ramifications for everyone with a stake, from the casual fan to team owners.
New betting show to go live next week
Don’t worry, soon there will be plenty of content to fill America’s relentless need for slap-fighting news and analysis.
Pro League Network, which bills itself as the “leading source of fun and inherently bettable live sports,” including CarJitsu, SlapFIGHT Championship, World Strongman, and Major League Paintball’s NXL ProSeries, is kicking off its PLN Picks show on Feb. 20. PLN also promotes the Pillow Fight Championship and professional mini golf, among other sports most people didn’t know existed.
The show is to be hosted by professional volleyball player and broadcaster Kaz Brown and can be seen on NBC Sports California, AT&T Sportsnets, beIN Sport, MASN, and Stadium Sports, among other outlets. It will dive into the latest developments “highlighting the competitions and wagering opportunities inherent in each sport.”
“Since launching, we’ve seen bettors and sports fans really get excited about the sports in our portfolio,” said PLN co-founders Mike Salvaris and Bill Yucatonis in a statement. “The opportunity to bring our sports to a broader audience through our new show is really exciting.”
Just another reminder: You really can bet on just about anything.
Amazon has plans for sports betting network
It seems that there is hardly an American business that isn’t looking to get into the sports betting market in some capacity these days.
Amazon announced that it is getting in on the act by adding a 24/7 sports betting network, SportsGrid, to Prime Video. The channel also will be available on Amazon’s FreeVee platform, as well as YouTube TV, Roku, and Fubo. The move doesn’t take place in a vacuum, as it should complement Amazon’s growing portfolio of live sports that includes Thursday Night Football, some New York Yankees games and Premier League soccer from the U.K.
SportsGrid is partnering with FanDuel, BetMGM, and WynnBet to produce ongoing sports betting content.
There also are rumors Amazon is developing a standalone sports app. Presumably, you could watch the show there as well.
These days, there are plenty of ways to get sports betting content if you know where to look. Soon, it will be hard to avoid it.
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