Last week we learned that the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned AT&T SportsNets will shut down by the end of March 2023. MLB, NBA, and NHL teams have until the end of the month to take back their rights and find a new partner or stream online.
Comcast already is in three of the affected markets and owns its own NBC Sports RSNs, but according to a report from Sports Business Journal, it has informed the NBA, MLB, and NHL that it has no interest in expanding its RSNs to replace AT&T SportsNets.
NBA, NHL, and MLB have all said they plan to stream games in-market if RSNs are unable to do so. Warner Bros. Discovery has told the leagues they can keep the broadcasting equipment from AT&T Sports nets to help make the transition smooth.
The problem is the leagues don’t want just to stream the games online but are hoping to find a new broadcast partner. The hope is to keep the cash coming from a new deal with some type of broadcast TV partner. With Comcast already being in three major markets affected by this outage, they seemed like the perfect partner. Now though Comcast has made it clear they are not interested in expanding their RSNs.
The Regional Sports Model was, for a long time, extremely profitable. Fox, Comcast, and others could force these expensive channels into base packages that everyone paid for now though many streaming services and even traditional TV networks like DISH have dropped them.
The problem for RSNs now is that they have expensive contracts, but the number of people paying for the channels has dropped significantly. Even Sinclair’s new $ 20-a-month direct-to-consumer streaming service for in-market games was not enough to offset the losses it was seeing.
This leaves MLB, NBA, and NHL in a tough spot. For years they have relied on very profitable TV deals from RSNs. Now they will need to find a new way to replace the billions these sports leagues will lose if RSNs go under.