With the start of the new baseball season around the corner, Diamond Sports Group -- the largest U.S. regional sports network group, which owns or has a stake in 19 operations -- has filed for bankruptcy protection, due to its heavy $8 billion debt load. The move had been expected.
Diamond Sports says it will continue to air games from Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NHL while it restructures.
The $8 billion in debt was incurred by owner Sinclair Broadcast Group when it bought the former Fox Sports regional sports group in 2019 -- then briefly owned by Walt Disney -- for $10.6 billion.
Part of the bankruptcy plan could have Diamond Sports -- with its Bally Sports-branded operations -- spun off completely from Sinclair.
Bally Sports networks is home to 42 professional sports teams across Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League.
Diamond Sports Group -- as well as other cable TV network operators -- has been facing major challenges, including the increasing cord-cutting of traditional pay TV services by video customers.
Regional sports networks in particular have been turned away from virtual pay TV providers, which complain that the slim profit margins of the RSNs are financially not viable for their business. Hulu+Live TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV are some pay TV distributors that don’t carry Bally Sports Networks.
In dealing with its legacy pay TV issues, Diamond Sports announced it would launch a streaming service for the Bally Sports-brand networks, called Bally Sports+.
Major League Baseball has been one of Diamond Sports' biggest professional sports leagues -- 14 teams in its 19 markets. Regular season MLB games are set to start on March 30.
MLB has been concerned that Diamond’s financial issues could mean missing payments due to baseball teams. MLB has proposed it would stream local market games free to consumers if Bally Sports was unable to do so.