Sinclair Renews RSN Deals, May Not Have Streaming Rights for a Direct to Consumer Service

Sinclair Broadcasting Group reported their Q3 2021 earnings yesterday and the company has reached new multi-year agreements with 3 professional sports clubs. According to a news release, the broadcast company entered into a new multi-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers back in September. In October, the company reached multi-year deals with the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers.

Unlike the Red Wings and Cavs deals, the release mentions that the Tigers deal “includes direct to consumer and other digital rights.” With Sinclair attempting to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service by the start of the 2022 MLB season, this could be a major step in doing so. However, the broadcaster will need to get more teams on board, especially, with rumors suggesting that Major League Baseball wants a stake in the service.

As of today, Sinclair’s Bally Sports Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) are home to 42 teams across the NBA, MLB, and NHL. Bally Sports Great Lakes is the home of Cavs games, while Bally Sports Detroit carries the Tigers and Red Wings. Of the 3 leagues carried by Bally Sports RSNs, MLB is the crown jewel as they play the most games, and acquiring more digital rights is crucial for the future of Bally Sports DTC streaming service.

While discussing MLB’s future with Diamond Sports and Bally Sports RSNs at the World Congress of Sports, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made it known that Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group, which technically owns Bally Sports RSNs, needed more digital rights if they want to follow through with their DTC service.

“Sinclair does not have enough digital rights from enough clubs in order to have a viable direct-to-consumer product,” Manfred said in October. “The other set of rights they’ve talked a lot about is gambling rights, they don’t have those either…we’ve been very clear from the beginning that we see both those sets of rights as extraordinary valuable to baseball. And we’re not just going to throw them in to help Sinclair out”

At the same event, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was aware of Sinclair’s issues when it comes to offering games on digital platforms.

“For now, clearly, the (cable) bundle’s broken. I mean, we’re seeing now an issue that’s very topical at the moment, our regional sports networks, Sinclair in particular, and they’re, we’re trying with them to work through those issues,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Silver’s words have become more apparent after Rich Greenfield at LightShed discovered that Sinclair’s NBA streaming rights have expired and they only have DTC rights to 4 MLB teams.

Sinclair plans to get more teams on board with their Bally Sports DTC streaming service once their contracts are up for renewal but they’re in the 4th quarter and the clock is ticking if they want to reach their 2022 launch goals.