Sinclair Broadcasting’s ill-fated Diamond Sports Group venture has been consuming all the oxygen over the last few months as the regional sports network model implodes, but now the market is taking another big hit. Warner Bros. Discovery has told the teams involved with three AT&T SportsNet channels in Denver, Houston, and Pittsburgh, and the Root Sports station in Seattle that it is moving forward with a Chapter 7 liquidation filing for those entities.
Teams have until March 31 to secure agreements to take their rights back, which could lead to working something out with Major League Baseball. This latest upheaval throws the Astros, Pirates, Rockies, and Mariners into a group that includes 14 other teams in danger of losing their lucrative broadcast deals, so we’re talking about 60% of the league.
MLB owners have formed an economic reform committee to address the immediate matter of broadcast rights while also finding a way to stop their wealthier colleagues from spending so much on payrolls. The TV situation is clearly much more pressing and will need to be settled in just a few weeks, leading to speculation that the league will bring the orphaned teams under a single umbrella via a streaming platform.
“We got to find a new model,” commissioner Rob Manfred said recently. “Maybe we ought to be driving the boat, what that model looks like. So, that’s the new challenge.”
While there will be growing pains at the outset, this could result in a model that consolidates most or all teams’ broadcast agreements in one place separate from traditional television partners. Eliminating those interests would also mean finally being rid of regional blackouts, or at least that’s how it should work. We’ll have more on this topic as it develops.
Ed. note: WBD is only a minority shareholder in Root Sports Northwest, which is owned primarily by the Mariners, so that channel isn’t really in jeopardy.