Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of the Hunt Valley-based TV station, dismissed as “speculation” a report that it is trying to sell its Diamond Sports unit to three professional sports leagues, even as the new The plans were confirmed on Thursday for the launch of regional sports streaming services. nationwide next week.
Sinclair bought the regional sports network for $10.6 billion in 2019, but they were hit hard by pandemic-related disruptions and “cord cutting” that has seen many fans abandon traditional cable TV.
sinclair spun off Diamond earlier this year from its financials, placing it in a separate entity, and reportedly hired investment bankers to assess options for the sports broadcasting business this summer. Diamond owns 19 Bali Sports Regional Sports Networks, formerly the Fox Regional Sports Network.
In his statement Thursday, Sinclair dismissed a New York Post report that Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League may organize a purchase of Diamond.
Diamond, the newspaper said, “is bleeding cash and could lead to a potential bankruptcy filing if a white knight is not found in the coming months.”
In his response, Sinclair said that “speculations made by unnamed sources are mere speculations.”
The company said it was “moving forward to the start of the NBA/NHL regular season with the full launch of our direct-to-consumer product on September 26.” It said it has the “full support” of the teams and the two leagues.
Diamond will launch “Bally Plus” — a direct-to-consumer streaming service — in 14 NBA and NHL markets on Monday ahead of the opening of the basketball and hockey seasons, Sinclair said in a written statement Thursday.
Diamond launched similar streaming options in June in the markets of five Major League Baseball teams: Tampa Bay, Miami, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Detroit. But — because Diamond only received streaming rights from those five teams — its offering is limited in the summer when baseball is the dominant sport.
An MLB spokesperson declined to comment on Thursday.
Games for the Orioles and Washington Nationals are broadcast locally by the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which is majority owned by the Orioles. MASN can only be livestreamed as part of a comprehensive subscription package that includes the network.
Sinclair Broadcast Group president and CEO Chris Ripley said in June that the launch of “Bally Plus” streaming services this fall would mark a turning point for the company.
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“We’re going to be serving a huge amount of fandom that’s already outside the pay TV bundle,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “And that’s where the real innovation is going to happen.”
Ripley said he envisions the services becoming increasingly interactive, for example, allowing fans to socialize online, buy tickets or gamble in states where sports betting is legal.
But the company still needs to address the lingering effects of overpaying for the network in 2019, said Caryl Legio, a finance professor at Loyola University Maryland.
“It appears to be a case of a winner’s curse,” said Legio. “Sinclair paid more for the rights to broadcast regional sports at a time when cord cutting was on the rise. Sinclair did not accurately estimate the impact of cableless subscribers on its revenue model.
Legio said sports leagues were positioned to obtain “bargain basement prices” for local broadcast rights.
The league, he said, “can get a good deal on buying the rights to regional games. It’s a distressed sales situation.”
Shares of Sinclair’s stock fell 90 cents each Thursday to close at $20.92 per share, less than half the rate since the company bought Sports Network in 2019.