Sinclair Broadcasting Group held its earnings call for Q4 2021 and discussed the future of their Bally Sports regional sports network direct-to-consumer streaming service. Industry insiders projected that the monthly subscription for the app would cost around $23 per month, but Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley denied that pricepoint in an interview.
During the conference call Wednesday, Ripley did not confirm how much the app would cost; however, he did give insight on what to expect during the DTC app’s soft launch in Q2 of 2022. The plans are to launch the streaming service with 5 MLB teams at first and then launch with all the NHL and NBA teams for which the company has streaming rights. Exact dates have not yet been announced, with NHL and NBA seasons beginning in the fall, it seems likely that the wide launch for those two leagues would be around the beginning of the 2022-2023 seasons.
Sinclair has been busy beefing up the future streaming service by acquiring digital rights for professional basketball and hockey teams with Ripley stating during the call, “The year ahead is an important one for our Company from a content and programming perspective. Already in 2022, we renewed our local digital rights with the NBA & NHL, paving the way for our new “Direct to Consumer” product.”
Back in December, Sinclair secured streaming rights for 12 NHL teams, which will allow the company to offer streaming content on an authenticated and DTC basis in the local territories of those teams. By January, the company was in talks to secure $600M in funding for the streaming platform. A few days later, the company reached a multi-year digital rights agreement with 16 NBA teams to stream games within their local territories. The NBA agreement has a term of one year with three successive one-year renewal offers, subject to compliance with the agreement.
It was reported that Sinclair projects 975,000 subscribers as the best-case scenario for the DTC Streaming Service. However, Sinclair has to gain more streaming rights for MLB teams since MLB games make up the majority of games across their RSNs. In the past, Riley was optimistic about the Bally Sports RSNs app having enough content to launch the DTC app, but that was before the MLB went on lockout.
The relationship between Bally Sports and MLB hasn’t been on the best of terms when compared to the NBA and NHL. When it comes to in-market games, MLB has been reportedly interested in creating its own in-market streaming app. MLB sees money in having their own app, but the league is also reportedly interested in having a stake in Bally’s future app. However, within the MLB, all teams do not seem to be on board with that idea, as Sinclair and the Cubs are reportedly in talks of launching their own DTC streaming app.
As the players and owners negotiate a new bargaining agreement to end the lockout, MLB may rethink their stance with Bally Sports and agree to a new streaming deal. If the lockout doesn’t end anytime soon, it is possible that regular-season games will be missed and that would be an issue for Bally Sports DTC’s soft launch.