The National Basketball Association (NBA) quietly renewed its local streaming deal with Diamond Sports group back in June, for one year, despite Diamond’s financial troubles, according to Sports Business Journal sources.
Diamond, Sinclair Broadcast Group's regional sports network subsidiary, owns 19 networks under Bally Sports, including 16 NBA networks, along with 14 Major League Baseball and 12 National Hockey League networks.
Diamond missed a $140-million interest payment on February 15, and is now in a 30-day grace period that is expected to end in a bankruptcy filing.
The current deal with the NBA allows Diamond to stream the games of the 16 NBA teams locally through Bally Sports+, the service it launched last September, through the 2024-2025 season.
The NBA agreed to renew every 12 months if Diamond continues to meet 13 conditions, which it managed to do as of June, according to the report. One condition mandates that Diamond’s regional sports networks continue to pay the NBA teams full rights fees.
A bankruptcy filing, or failure to meet any of the other conditions, would give the NBA grounds to terminate the agreement and allow the league to launch its own streaming services in those markets.
There is also speculation that, if freed from this contract, the NBA might look to try to combine the RSN streaming rights with national digital rights in its next round of negotiations for linear TV deals with Disney/ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Turner, which also expire at the end of the 2024-2025 season. NBC, Fox, Amazon and Apple are also said to be interested in NBA rights.
Sinclair reportedly has proposed a restructuring plan calling for it to retain just 2% to 5% or so of Diamond, and for creditors to receive some $9 billion in debt as equity and take majority ownership, but this plan would require buy-in from the NHL, as well as the NBA, and would also hope to get MLB on board.
The leagues are reportedly trying to keep Diamond from being forced into a “free-fall” bankruptcy and ceasing streaming the games and paying the teams, to avoid the significant costs that would be involved in having to rapidly launch their own regional streamers and negotiate with pay-TV distributors to carry them.