Diamond Sports, which owns 19 Bally Sports regional networks — including Bally Sports North — made official its bankruptcy filing Tuesday, an unsurprising move that nonetheless brings the perilous nature of the future of local sports on TV into further focus.
While Diamond pledged to continue broadcasting the games of the 42 teams across the NHL, NBA and MLB that fall under the Bally umbrella, it's clear that the affected leagues are at the very least creating plans — both short- and long-term — for an upcoming time when the distribution model will be quite different.
I talked about some of the key issues on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Here are a few thoughts if you are a Minnesota sports fan wondering where everything sits now that bankruptcy is official:
Wild and Wolves shouldn't be impacted in the short-term: A key sentence from the Associated Press story about the bankruptcy indicated Diamond Sports is up-to-date on payments to all NHL and NBA teams.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, meanwhile, said Wednesday the league has been given assurance that regular-season games over the final month of the season won't be impacted. The NHL, which is particularly dependent on local TV revenue, has some long-term planning to do.
MLB making contingency plans: While MLB released a statement expressing confidence in games continuing to be broadcast through the Diamond Sports bankruptcy, Commissioner Rob Manfred has been vocal about the league's ability to make sure fans don't miss any games if something changes.
"We know that we can put those games up in conjunction with MLB.tv digitally, and we are in the process of trying to work out arrangements that will put us in a position to make those games available within the cable bundle as well," Manfred said a couple weeks ago, per Yahoo.
Twins fans, for now, should expect to watch games on Bally Sports North via cable, satellite and select streaming services — though last time I checked there was still no agreement in place to have Twins games shown over the Bally Sports Plus app.
A streamlined future in MLB, other leagues? One fascinating (or disheartening, depending on your perspective) future that might emerge is a more streamlined local broadcast process run by the leagues.
The subject was raised in the aforementioned Yahoo story, and one could envision MLB taking control of broadcasts — presumably with just one crew instead of home-and-away production and commentating crews as often exist now — as a way to cut costs and make up for what figures to be a drop in local TV revenue.
How would you feel about a more generic Twins broadcast potentially without familiar voices?
Then again, a selling point: "A more national product produces more centrally shared revenue, which reduces revenue disparity, which, in turn, we hope, would reduce payroll disparities," Manfred said.
A narrowing of that gap might be welcome to a team like the Twins, who take in over $100 million less every year in local TV revenue than a team like the Dodgers. But would big-market teams go for it? Is that really the future for MLB and perhaps the NBA and NHL as well?
That, like so much else, remains to be seen.