Bally Regional Sports Networks Rescued by Amazon
In the same week that the NFL and Peacock successfully broadcast a streaming-only NFL playoff game, the bankrupt Bally Sports Networks found their own livestreaming bailout.
The Diamond Sports Group, which operates the Bally brand of regional sports networks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in March. Now there is a way out, thanks to a minority investment in Diamond made by Amazon, and an agreement that Amazon Prime become the primary streaming site for the teams Bally covers.
Along with the investment by Amazon, creditors have agreed to $450 million in financing to Diamond, which will be used to keep its operations afloat as it restructures.
Diamond Sports Group is a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group, and their stock rose 13% on Wednesday when the deal with Amazon was announced.
“We are thrilled to have reached a comprehensive restructuring agreement that provides a detailed framework for a reorganization plan and substantial new financing that will allow Diamond to operate and thrive beyond 2024,” Diamond CEO David Preschlack said in a statement. “We are grateful for the support from Amazon and a group of our largest creditors, who clearly believe in the value-creating potential of this business.”
Where You Can Watch Your Regional Sports Network
Along with its distribution on pay TV (traditional cable), there was the newly launched Bally Sports+, a $20-a-month direct to consumer streaming service. But shortly after that was launched, the bankruptcy was filed, and subscribers failed to materialize.
That direct to consumer streaming is now moving to Amazon Prime. The full details haven’t been announced, but there is expected to be an additional fee that current Amazon Prime members will have to pay for a particular region or team.
But an important distinction is that this is not a streaming-only agreement. The 18 regional sports networks under the Bally brand will continue to seek pay TV agreements, which is good news for consumers and the teams that have had agreements with Bally’s in recent years. The uncertainty with Diamond Sports Group over the last year has caused some of those teams to face their own financial uncertainties.
Cable agreements are important, but the streaming on Amazon is the real prize. More and more Americans are cord-cutting, and this past year traditional TV viewing (over the air broadcasts, cable, and satellite) fell below 50% for the first time in history.
For Bally, Amazon couldn’t be a better partner. Instead of trying to set up 18 different streaming services, they can use one that has for years been in the live sports streaming business across the globe.
Amazon’s biggest plus is its relationship with the NFL, which has been in place since 2017. It also has been offering non-Amazon subscription services for MLB TV and NBA League Pass. So adding subscription streaming services for regional sports networks will be easy.
This upcoming season for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Amazon will live stream 27 Friday night matches, and at least one playoff match. In 2025, Amazon will begin livestreaming five NASCAR races per year. They’ve also offered WNBA games regionally since 2021.
Amazon hasn’t said if they will continue with BetCast, an alternate broadcast that focuses on live betting odds and betting commentary. But the alternate broadcast, in partnership with PointsBet, has been popular with regional sports networks in Chicago and Philadelphia.
ESPN and TNT offered their own “BetCast” during their coverage this past December.of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament.
Professional Teams Covered by Bally Sports
The 18 Bally Sports regional networks currently cover 40 teams in four different American professional sports leagues.
Major League Baseball: Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Guardians, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Milwaukee Brewers. Through last season, Bally Sports North also carried the Minnesota Twins.
NBA: Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks.
NHL: Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
WNBA: Indiana Fever, Minnesota Lynx, and Atlanta Dream.
The agreement with teams from Major League Baseball extends through the 2024 season. For the NBA and NHL, it extends through the current regular season. For the three WNBA teams, the agreement is through their upcoming 2024 season.