Bally Sports, owned and operated by Diamond Sports, has been carrying Brewers television broadcasts for the team over the past two seasons. Before that, they were under the Fox Sports network of channels, which were sold after Disney acquired Fox in 2019.
However, the past couple of seasons have not been kind to the networks. With various rate disputes going on with TV providers, and payments to teams increasing, the networks have been in financial trouble for a while. Last month, they missed a payment to creditors, and this month they must make payments to MLB teams before the season starts. However, they are expected to declare bankruptcy to try and get out of some of these payments.
Four teams are mentioned specifically in this report as having contracts that will be rejected. These teams are the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Guardians, and Cincinnati Reds. All four teams are reported to have contracts that are unprofitable, and as part of the bankruptcy proceedings, they will be rejected. That will start a negotiation process with the teams and MLB about reclaiming the broadcast rights. There is no clear timetable on this, though the network is expected to continue broadcasting games for now.
What does this mean for the Brewers? Going into the 2023 season, not much at this time. They were not named as one of the teams that Diamond did not pay, so it is expected that game broadcasts will continue as normal for now. However, we can use the current situations with teams that are missing payments to get an idea of what we can expect. Diamond is currently in negotiations to sell the networks to another company, but has not found a buyer yet. MLB did make an offer to buy the rights themselves, but Diamond rejected it.
For the teams that have their rights reclaimed, MLB may take over and broadcast their games for free for the current season. This is expected to happen for three teams that were part of AT&T SportsNet, owned by Warner Brothers Discovery. They announced that they will not make their rights payments for the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Colorado Rockies. MLB is expected to take control of their broadcasts at some point this season, but they will remain on their current networks through Opening Day.
However, the outlook is not good for Diamond and Bally Sports. They have expiring deals with Comcast in September and DirecTV in November. Once those deals are gone, none of the teams may be profitable anymore. The current model of broadcasting for MLB teams is becoming unsustainable due to rising costs with decreasing viewership. We are beginning to see the collapse of it now.
The landscape of TV broadcasting in MLB, and even in the NBA and NHL, is going to look considerably different in the next few years. For baseball, it could come in the form of the league reclaiming all the rights to the affected teams, or it could be new companies coming in and picking up the rights. For the start of the 2023 season, everything will be the same as usual, but how we watch the Brewers may be changing in the near future.