On February 9, 2024, Bally Sports will have a critical hearing related to the future of multiple MLB teams on its networks. This comes after multiple delays in the hearing, including a last-second switch with Amazon proposing to take over streaming from Bally Sports.
Bally Sports offered MLB slightly lower pay for the 2024 season in exchange for all TV rights being returned to MLB at the end of the season. Now Bally Sports is offering to pay full price for the teams to keep its contracts going into the future. This all is pending the judge’s approval of an early deal with Amazon and Sinclair to bring in new funding.
In 2023, Bally Sports had already dropped multiple MLB teams. Now, Bally Sports says it has reached a deal to keep all its remaining MLB teams even if it does not have streaming rights, but this is all subject to court approval. Originally, this court case was to have happened already, but after Bally Sports and Amazon announced a streaming partnership, MLB asked for a delay, saying they were blindsided by the news.
MLB was reportedly expecting to get TV rights back after the end of the 2024 MLB season. Now, though, Bally Sports is reportedly trying to keep TV rights for the 2025 season and beyond.
With this hearing the court will look at approving a deal to keep the Rangers, Gaurdians, and Twins as TV contracts with Bally Sports. Now with the new deal from Amazon and Sinclair, Bally Sports is offering to pay full price for MLB teams.
The MLB teams that Bally Sports currently has contracts with are the Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Guardians, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Milwaukee Brewers.
If MLB fails to reach a deal with Bally Sports for some or all of its teams, here is where the teams would likely end up.
Where will these teams go if Bally Sports shuts down?
Free over-the-air TV is reportedly about to be the new home for many of these teams. Scripps has reached deals with several teams to air games free on broadcast TV if Bally Sports drops them. It has also been reported that other networks like Gray have done the same. This will likely see many teams move to free over-the-air TV networks for in-market games.
The other option is streaming. Amazon and Disney have both started talks about streaming games online in the affected markets.
ESPN has also had talks with MLB to air games in markets both on TV and streaming likely through ESPN+ if Bally Sports goes under. Exactly how that would work for broadcasts on TV just for in-market games is unknown.
Which teams would end up on free over-the-air TV and which teams would move to streaming is also not known right now. What we do know is MLB and teams have been busy making deals to be ready if there is a need.
Other issues to be addressed in the future include DIRECTV’s request to reduce its payments to Bally Sports because of the lost channels and sporting events. That request does not have a court date at this time.