The Biggest Sports Broadcasting Company Just Filed For Bankruptcy
Diamond Sports Group, the largest regional sports network in the country that oversees Bally, has declared bankruptcy, leaving teams like the Padres, Reds, and Rays without a place to broadcast their games.
While most people think of Disney-owned ESPN when it comes to large sports networks, you can’t overlook regional sports networks, which focus their content on a local area’s teams. The largest regional sports network is Diamond Sports Group, which had roughly 75 million subscribers in 2018 — three times the number of subscribers that ESPN has. However, it turns out all those subscribers don’t necessarily lead to profit, as The Hollywood Reporter reports that the company has filed for bankruptcy.
Instead of covering every major sports team like ESPN, regional sports networks, like the Bally Sports networks owned by Diamond Sports Group, focus on a small number of teams – specifically, those that operate in the area the network covers. These sometimes include college teams if they’re popular in the area. For example, the group Bally Sports North, which covers midwestern sports teams, broadcasts hockey games from the University of Minnesota.
Diamond Sports Group, previously known as Fox Sports Networks, was acquired by the controversial local TV provider Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2020. The deal came after Disney acquired all of Fox’s non-news offerings, and the Department Of Justice’s antitrust division ordered Disney to sell the networks to a third party. Sinclair Broadcast Group’s stock skyrocketed after news of the deal was announced, but in the intervening years, its stock dropped by more than 75 percent, culminating in Diamond Sports Group’s bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy doesn’t mean the end for Diamond Sports Group, however. A company spokesperson stated that, by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the company will be able to “restructure and strengthen its balance sheet.” It seems that all the company’s 19 regional networks and four affiliate networks will continue broadcasting their content throughout bankruptcy proceedings.
However, this doesn’t mean that all of Diamond Sports Group’s content will remain on-air. Bally Sports Arizona will no longer broadcast Arizona Diamondbacks games, Bally Sports Great Lakes will no longer broadcast Cleveland Guardians games, Bally Sports Ohio will no longer broadcast Cincinnati Reds games, and Bally Sports San Diego will no longer broadcast San Diego Padres games. It’s unclear whether other sports teams will be cut from Diamond Sports Group’s offerings.
Diamond Sports Group isn’t the only owner of regional sports networks that have faced difficulties in recent years. NBC Sports Regional Networks, previously known as Comcast SportsNet, was forced to shut down its northwest network in 2021, and NBC Sports Washington was sold to Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
AT&T SportsNet, owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, faces even bigger issues than either Diamond Sports Group or NBS Sports Regional Networks. Warner Bros. Discovery announced in February that they are completely leaving the regional sports network business. If the teams they have contracted with don’t buy the networks themselves, each channel will apply for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
Unlike Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 will result in the stations completely ceasing operations.
As more and more people cut the cord from cable and rely entirely on streaming and over-the-air broadcasts, it’s entirely possible that the business plans of regional sports networks will no longer be sustainable. Only time will tell whether Diamond Sports Group and its fellow sports networks can adapt to the times.