Bally Sports is bankrupt and its future is not bright. However it works out its debts with league partners in the end it’s expected to be owned by its creditors. Those creditors include Prudential Financial, Fidelity, Hein Park Capital Management and Mudrick Capital Management. And once they take ownership it is believed the group plans to sell it.
Bally Sports is a collection of Regional Sports Networks or (RSNS) that Sinclair Broadcast Group bought from Disney after the merger that give Disney the rights to 20th Century Fox. Sinclair had hoped to leverage live sports and use what is considered the only premium product on TV as a way to get more revenue.
Unfortunately for Sinclair numerous cable and satellite entities began to drop the service in the face of rising rights costs and customer losses. Even the companies who did not drop Bally Sports/Fox Sports RSNs had less money to hand out because it is based on how many paying customers there are overall. This means every time you see a report that a cable company lost 250K customers it is 250K less payments to Bally Sports and every other cable channel. But for Bally Sports which has contracts with MLB, NHL and NBA teams not to even mention major college conferences, not only does every penny count, it can’t save money by replacing an NBA game with a reality show or competition.
So, if as those who have followed this story closely suggest say, Bally Sports will be sold at some point, who will buy it? Here are our best guesses.
These were originally Fox products and they sold them for a hefty profit. Now they would have a chance to buy them back at a discount. Fox has reformatted itself around News and Sports along with keeping an eye on the future of TV via Tubi, its free ad-supported streamer. If it can get the sports channels back at a good price it may have enough muscle in the TV world to leverage carriage of the asset with services and even find away to make the nascent Bally Sports streaming service work.
Comcast is about to enter a whole new era. The company will soon get a big fat check from Disney for its third of Hulu. The company recently upped its game with Peacock by giving its customers with the $9.99 premium tier not only ad-free on-demand TV and WWE Live Events, but also access to local NBC stations. Comcast, unlike Netflix and Disney+, does not appear as committed to spending billions developing original content for the service. But as evidenced by its move to add Hallmark content and live streams as well as its arrangement with the WWE archives and live premium events, it will spend money to add content it believes enhances Peacock. Even more, Comcast recently integrated its NBC regional Sports Networks into Peacock for viewers in the channel’s footprints. Adding Bally Sports would give it a more national product for sports that it could craft into something substantial with both pay-TV providers and Peacock Premium customers.
Paramount through CBS sports has had a presence in major sports since the dawn of sports on TV. It already offers sports content via CBS Sports Network and it free to stream CBS Sports HQ. If it felt that it could grow viewership and subscribers on Paramount+ or build its relationship with traditional TV distributors for a good price it may scoop the company up. One could see multiple Bally Sports branded channels built into Pluto TV and a combination of content from Showtime Sports, CBS Sports and regional programming. We would expect an offering to be available on the higher-end $9.99 tier if it were available via streaming.
We think that story is yet to be fully written about Dish Network. As we have discussed recently the company that is both a big player in the satellite TV world and the live TV streaming world through Sling TV has long been rumored to have its eyes set on its satellite rival DirecTV. It may be too much debt for a company the size of Dish to take on, but a move to buy the RSN outright may give a revamped Dish/Sling a major marketing tool to break through the muck.
YouTube laid low when it came to the NFL and struck quickly to wrap up the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket. Could it do the same with Bally Sports? Yes, it is a loss leader for Sinclair, but a company like Google has a lot of money to work things out and that means it has time to let things play out. Google could sell the Bally Sports direct-to-consumer product through its Primetime Channels as a separate product or maybe even choose to bundle it with the NFL package. Who knows, it may give it to YTTV customers at a discount and drop the channels right into its guide.
Apple balked at the NFL when it came to NFL Sunday Ticket, but it has obvious sports ambitions. It may not have the cachet to negotiate with all of the Bally Sports partners which include every major sports league outside of the NFL but if it is serious about using sports to drive attention to its TV ambitions it is going to have to make a bigger move than MLS and a weekly Major League Baseball game. Like Google, Apple has a lot of money to spend on the service, which is completely unrelated to the TV industry’s ebbs and flows. It would not surprise us in the least to see the name come up.