What could a Bally Sports bankruptcy mean for RSNs’ team deals?

  • February 13, 2023

Diamond Sports, which operates the Bally Sports Regional Networks and its 19 channels, could soon file for bankruptcy protection. But if they do, that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the RSN deals in place.

It’s become almost a parlor game predicting when the bankruptcy comes — “if” does not seem a necessary conjunction any longer — as the struggling RSN-empire staggers under steep losses generated by cord-cutting and debt from Sinclair’s mistimed 2019 acquisition of the sports media channels. A subsidiary of Sinclair, Diamond in November disclosed a $1.2 billion quarterly loss amid a 10 percent drop in subscribers.

Bloomberg diamond-faces-8-6-billion-debt-reckoning?sref=W6GJF3MS#xj4y7vzkg”last month reported, “Diamond will probably skip a mid-February $140 million interest-only payment servicing around $8.6 billion in debt as it prepares for a Chapter 11 restructuring.”

All this has led to predictions of gloom and doom for the 42 teams (14 MLB, 12 NHL, and 16 NBA) aired on the RSNs, with fears Diamond may walk away from those contracts amid bankruptcy. This has reverberated throughout the leagues and teams and led MLB reportedly into thus far unsuccessful talks to negotiate some type of a buyout of the RSNs.

Kawhi Leonard is interviewed by reporter Kristina Pink as part of Bally Sports’ Clippers coverage. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)

But how in danger are the RSN deals in bankruptcy? They are certainly substantial risks to what is a very large income stream for the teams. In the first nine months of last year, Diamond made sports rights fee payments of $1.47 billion, according to the company’s most recent quarterly report. Including the last quarter of 2022, Diamond has on its books future obligations to pay rights fees of $12.7 billion, according to the quarterly filing.

But while at first glance it might seem like

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