North America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken control of the Arizona Diamondback’s broadcasts after a bankruptcy judge approved domestic partner Diamond Sports Group’s (DSG) request to end its contract with the team.
The move makes the Diamondbacks the second MLB side to leave DSG’s regional sports network (RSN) Bally Sports this season after the San Diego Padres had their contract terminated at the end of May.
As with the Padres, MLB will make Diamondback’s games available through its streaming service MLB.TV and will provide a linear cable option on different channels through Cox, DirecTV, Spectrum, and Comcast Xfinity. Other broadcasters including Mediacom, Orbitel, TDS, and Optimum/Suddenlink will also show coverage of Diamondback games, as will streaming platform Fubo.
Games will remain free to watch on MLB.com and Dbacks.com until July 23. After that, in-market fans will be able to stream games for $19.99 per month or $74.99 for the rest of the regular season (which ends on October 1).
The new era of Diamondbacks coverage started with last night’s (July 18) win against Atlanta.
In a statement, the Diamondbacks chief executive Derrick Hall said: “This decision provides us with an opportunity to partner with MLB to produce high-quality broadcasts of Diamondbacks games on current platforms, expand access to include streaming options, and remove blackouts that have been a fan frustration point for years.
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“We have enjoyed our partnership with Bally Sports Arizona and thank them for the longtime partnership. But we look forward to providing unprecedented access to our exciting team moving forward, including a greatly expanded reach of new households.”
MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden added: “While we’re disappointed that Diamond Sports Group failed to live up to their contractual agreement with another club, we are taking this opportunity to reimagine the distribution model, remove blackouts on local games, improve the telecast, and expand the reach of Diamondbacks games by 4.7 million homes.”
DSG has been navigating bankruptcy proceedings since March amid significant financial losses caused by the initial $10.6 billion it paid to purchase rights for 21 US teams from the Fox network in 2019. Court filings had shown its RSNs had also lost 22 million subscribers and $810 million in revenue over the last four years.
DSG gained the rights for its RSNs to broadcast the games of 42 teams across ice hockey’s NHL, basketball’s NBA, and the MLB. Teams who are not paid their rights fees are free to break their contracts, with the Padres being the first to exit.
The Diamondbacks had been one of 14 MLB teams covered by DSG via its Bally Sports RSNs – the others being the Padres, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers.
DSG has repeatedly stated it needs additional streaming rights – it only has such rights to five of its MLB properties – to prop up its BallySports+ app and generate more revenue. However, MLB has declined to offer any more rights.
MLB has previously stated its wish for DSG to fulfill its contracts with its teams but has longer-term plans to centralize broadcasting rights under its MLB.tv umbrella. The league recently launched a local media department to navigate broadcasting rights in the post-DSG streaming world.
DSG has paid only half its fees to the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Cleveland Guardians. During a hearing in May, it claimed it should pay fewer rights fees to those teams to account for the market forces that have reduced the traditional cable model in recent years.
However, the bankruptcy court ruled DSG was responsible for paying rights in full to the teams.