SALT LAKE CITY Issues with Bally Sports’ financial outlook and access to broadcasts have reached All Star status.
During his annual All-Star Weekend press conference, NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday spoke about his level of concern regarding regional sports network operator Diamond Sports Group, which is close to filing for bankruptcy in the coming weeks.
A subsidiary of Sinclair, Diamond owns the local broadcast rights to 42 professional sports teams, including the Mavericks, Stars, and Rangers in Bally Sports Southwest.
Sixteen of the 30 NBA teams have local broadcast deals with one of Bally Sports’ 19 regional sports networks, and Diamond’s potential bankruptcy schedule could clash with the end of the regular season.
Diamond skipped about $140 million in interest payments on Feb. 15, triggering a 30-day grace period during which the company said it would continue discussions with creditors and stakeholders to consider alternative financial structures.
Diamond faces more than $8.6 billion in debt, according to multiple outlets, including $2 billion owed to sports teams for broadcast rights.
What does that mean for the NBA – and Mavericks broadcasting of Southwestern sports this season?
“In the short term, I’m not interested in everything,” Silver said. “It makes a huge impact on the NBA regular season in terms of distribution, delivering those games directly to our customers. And if they want to actually, you know, file for bankruptcy, there’s not much left of the regular season.
“For this period of time, we will have arrangements in place, if necessary, to continue distributing those matches to the fans. So I think that is the most important.”
Silver pointed to local over-the-air TV channels and streaming services as potential backup options in the event Bally Sports coverage is cut out of bankruptcy.
Many have also seen the NBA app, which debuted this season and included several original game streams, as a potential long-term path for the evolution of game streaming logistics.
“In the medium term, this is a problem that we will have to work through,” Silver said. “We’ve had extensive discussions with Diamond, the company you’re referring to, about a potential restructuring, and I’m fairly optimistic we’ll be able to work with them.
“Like I said, if we can’t, we’ll make sure we have a system in place to bring those matches to the fans.”
After the NBA regular season ends on April 9, Bally Sports and the local networks will stage the first round of the playoffs, which ends in late April. The league is centered on exclusive national broadcasting at the start of the second round.
That means the years-long headache Mavericks fans have had to access and stream Bally Sports Southwest will last at least a little longer.
Bally Sports Southwest is still not available on YouTube TV, Hulu Live, or other popular streaming services.
FuboTV recently reached an agreement to carry Bally Sports channels again, joining DirecTV Stream and traditional cable options DirecTV and Spectrum as the only current options for local fans to receive Bally Sports Southwest in part of a larger subscription plan.
Diamond unveiled Bally Sports+ this fall with a subscription of more than $20 per month for the only Bally Sports channel available in a specific region, and Bloomberg reported in January that the company is considering a new service that would allow fans to pay for individual games or just the last few minutes.
But many Mavericks fans surveyed at the start of the season cited the high price point for one channel, technical issues with the app, and Sinclair’s rejection as reasons for declining to opt-in.
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