Major League Baseball: Not Playing Ball -- Again? What It Could Mean For RSNs And TV

Major League Baseball is putting regional sports networks into another twisting bind -- as the season again is in jeopardy.

The league's “lockout” has failed to get resolved as players' and owners' talks have stalled. Opening day is now delayed -- and we still have not had any spring, pre-season exhibition games.

Think back to two years ago: The beginning of the pandemic, in early March. That put the kibosh on a full season. While it did start up back again on July 23 and ran through September 27 -- for a 60-game season -- it wasn't the same.

Mind you, the same can be said for other big-time professional sports.

Now there is another financial bind... but more of the regular variety. Major League Baseball players want more money -- especially for new rookie players who don't get anywhere near the multimillion-dollar salaries of the league's big-time stars.



This means regional sports networks -- from Sinclair's Diamond Sports Groups to NBC Sports regional sports networks -- will again be looking for license fee rebates from teams.

All this comes as baseball has been looking to get back some of its swagger.

NBCUniversal's existing, and growing, premium streaming network, Peacock -- which offers a wide range of TV and movie content -- scripted, non-fiction, news, and sports content -- has reportedly been talking with the league about streaming baseball games.

Still, the longer recent look of the league -- the 80,000-foot view -- might tell a different story.

Major League Baseball now has a profile as an also-ran when it comes to big-time professional televised sports -- behind the likes the NBA and the NFL.

For most of the 1990s, baseball took a nosedive in public opinion and TV viewership, due to a 1994 strike that canceled the season. Much of this sentiment was recovered in 1999 when the great home-run record race, starring Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, was in full swing.

Then baseball went into a decline again in the 2000s when it was discovered that some of its biggest stars were using performance-enhancing drugs -- hitters, as well as pitchers.

One more: In 2017 and 2018, the Houston Astros used technology to steal players' signs on the opposing teams. The Astros won the World Series in 2017.

These kinds of hits are not good for a sport that looks to return to the big time levels of decades ago.

In terms of TV business, it certainly doesn't look good for big regional sports network operators, such as Diamond Sports Group, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has had financial troubles for three years ever since it bought the 21 network group (under the Fox Sports brand) back in 2019 from Walt Disney. It needs baseball as a major revenue driver.

For sure, players just starting out also have needs -- financial protection -- especially when one innocent on-field play can dramatically change young players' health and playing life though a major injury.

All that puts the league on the backfoot, again -- as well as related TV network businesses still pursuing a live TV sports content profile that seemingly TV advertisers can't get enough of.

Next story loading loading..