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Broadcasting & Cable
Broadcasting & Cable
Daniel Frankel

MLB Sets Up New Diamondbacks Channel, Claims Reach Has Expanded by 4.7 Million Homes vs. Bally Sports Arizona

MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks channel

As expected on Tuesday, Sinclair regional sports networks subsidiary Diamond Sports Group tore up the remainder of its 20-year, $1.5 billion local TV rights deal with Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks.

And as everyone also expected, MLB had a plan: Starting Tuesday night at 7:20 p.m. EST, when the Diamondbacks take on the Atlanta Braves at Atlanta's Truist Park, Diamondbacks games will be shown on a new channel, with carriage established via leading pay TV operators Comcast, Charter Communications, DirecTV, Cox and Fubo. 

Similar to how it handled the San Diego Padres when they were cast out of the Bally Sports RSN garden in late May, MLB will stream Diamondbacks games for free to local Diamondbacks fans through Sunday, July 23, on MLB.TV and

After Sunday, MLB.TV will have a separate direct-to-consumer service that will live-stream all Diamondbacks games to local-area fans for $19.95 a month. This service will be distinct from the out-of-market live-streaming that is MLB.TV's core business.

The Diamondbacks primary TV broadcast talent, Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly, will continue to serve in their existing roles. 

All told, MLB claims that it has expanded the distribution of live Diamondbacks games by 4.7 million homes vs. the 930,000 homes served by Bally Sports Arizona. 

The new “MLB Arizona Diamondbacks” outlet will be available on DirecTV linear satellite channel 686-3 and DirecTV Stream channel 686 “across Arizona and southwest New Mexico, including key metro regions like Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, Las Cruces, NM,” DirecTV said in its own statement. 

It's unclear how much in carriage fees MLB is charging its pay TV constituents ... or whether the aggregate revenue for the new channel will come remotely close to replacing the $75 million a season the Diamondbacks were generating from their Bally Sports Arizona regional sports networks contract. 

Major League Baseball owners not affected by the Bally Sports bankruptcy crisis have pledged to “backstop" teams that are, revenue-wise, through this current 2023 season. 

MLB said that since May 31, when it took over Padres games, it expanded reach of the team's games by 189% and that average viewership leading into last week's All-Star break was up over 14%. 

Again, how that translates into revenue is unclear. 

“As Major League Baseball has proven with the Padres, we’re ready to produce and distribute games to fans, including Diamondbacks games starting today,” said Noah Garden, MLB chief revenue officer, in a statement. “While we’re disappointed that Diamond Sports Group failed to live up to their contractual agreement with another Club, we are taking this opportunity to reimagine the distribution model, remove blackouts on local games, improve the telecast, and expand the reach of Diamondbacks games by 4.7 million homes.”

The fate of Bally Sports Arizona remains unclear. Two other tenants, the NBA's Phoenix Suns and the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, officially left the channel Monday and will have a new free, over-the-air broadcast TV arrangement for their local TV rights with Gray Television. 

The NHL's Arizona Coyotes are still contracted with Bally Sports Arizona, but pay TV operators, notably DirecTV, have already made motions to not have to continue paying for the channel in the Houston bankruptcy court overseeing Diamond Sports restructuring.

The Coyotes released a statement Tuesday afternoon: "We are fully aware of the developments regarding Bally Sports Arizona. The Arizona Coyotes remain under contract with Bally Sports Arizona, and remain hopeful that the network will continue to broadcast our games this season. Nonetheless, we will continue to evaluate all of our options, as needed, and will ensure that our great fans across the Valley are able to watch our games this fall. We will have no further comment until we have news to announce."

Diamond entered Chapter 11 restructuring in March, looking to shed $8 billion in debt taken on when parent company Sinclair paid $10.6 billion to acquire 19 Fox SportsNet channels in 2019. Those channels were rebranded under the Bally Sports banner. 

Chapter 11 law has offered Diamond a means of walking away from deals for which it is losing money, such as the Diamondbacks and Padres TV arrangements. 

If Bally Sports Arizona were to go away, there'd be 17 remaining Bally Sports channels contracted with 39 remaining MLB, NBA and NHL teams. 

Of the 12 remaining MLB teams in the Bally Sports tent, seven have yet to surrender their DTC streaming rights for Diamond's Bally Sports Plus service. 

Diamond entered bankruptcy with the key goal of changing that dynamic. But so far, no team has budged.

Look for other MLB clubs to soon join the Diamondbacks and Padres. 

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