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Broadcasting & Cable
Broadcasting & Cable
Daniel Frankel

Did the Other Skate Just Drop? NHL Tells Bankruptcy Court It Might Want to Ice Its Bally Sports Deals

Bally Sports NHL coverage

A lawyer representing the National Hockey League told the judge overseeing the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports Group Friday that the league might want to seek injunctive relief from Diamond's Bally Sports regional sports networks if a restructuring plan can't be worked out soon. 

Houston Judge Chris Lopez had just given Sinclair's Diamond subsidiary an 80-day extension, making the new deadline to come up with a plan September 30. 

According to Awful Announcing, which obtained access to Friday's bankruptcy court "status conference," NHL outside counsel Shana Elberg said the league is still hopeful that its 12 teams under Bally Sports local TV contracts can continue on with the company. 

But Elberg also gave the judge one very measured, very clear, very serious-seeming heads-up:

"It’s critical that we have certainty as we prepare for the 2023 24 NHL season," she said, noting a pre-season start date of September 23 and a regular season go date of October 10. "To be transparent to avoid surprises to the court, we just wanted to make sure the court was aware of if we don’t have any reasonable certainty in the near future, we may be coming back to the court on potentially short notice to request any appropriate necessary relief.”

Elberg added that the NHL wants to give its team constituents "the assurance that we can broadcast their games. And the only way to do that is to try to come to a resolution quickly, hopefully in advance of those seasons, so that everybody can feel comfortable.”

Certainly, as this past week revealed, Diamond Sports Group has at least 99 problems.

America's biggest broadcast station groups -- including, ironically, Sinclair, which started this whole RSN mess -- say they've met with both the NBA and NHL and have pitched moving games currently tied up in the regional sports network ecosystem to over-the-air broadcast, where many more fans can be reached ... and untold advertising revenue can be recouped. 

Earlier, a report surfaced that ESPN/Disney, Apple, Amazon and Google had also reached out to the leagues saying they might be interested in streaming/broadcasting their games locally if things with Diamond can't be resolved. 

And it got even more complicated last week when DirecTV told the judge that any restructuring plan has to account for the fact that Diamond has to very soon work out pay TV carriage renewals with Comcast, Charter and DirecTV -- respectively, the Nos. 1,2 and 3 largest pay TV operators in America. 

Back in March, when Diamond entered restructuring, things seemed much more straightforward -- Diamond would trade around $8 billion in debt by restructuring a few of its money-losing deals, and creditors would trade debt relief for equity. 

But as the restructuring progresses, it's getting harder and harder to imagine that Diamond and Bally Sports emerge on the other side of this thing intact. 

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