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Diamond Sports Group Requests Extension in Ch. 11 Reorganization

“Navigating these choppy waters requires discussions with, and cooperation from, many parties….”

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Courtesy: Chris Coduto, Getty Images

Diamond Sports Group is in the midst of waiting to discover whether or not its request for an extension to file a restructuring plan under Chapter 11 bankruptcy will be approved by a U.S. bankruptcy court, a decision that could prove pivotal in the survival of the Sinclair subsidiary. The entity previously declared bankruptcy in March 2023 after it threatened the proposition to Major League Baseball as it implored the league to grant it expanded direct-to-consumer (DTC) broadcast rights. MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. refused to acquiesce to Diamond’s demands and instituted a local media department, headed by Billy Chambers, set to take over regional broadcast responsibilities if Diamond decided to selectively reject existing rights contracts.

Diamond previously received an extension to file a restructuring plan on Sept. 30 and enlisted the help of a mediator leading up to that time. The company now hopes to be able to file that plan on Nov. 29, which would give the entity an additional two months to compile and receive feedback on a potential resolution. At the moment, creditors are deliberating the best path forward to reorganize itself amid over $8 billion in debt, largely due to its acquisition of regional sports networks from The Walt Disney Company in an antitrust-related divestiture outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2019.

“The debtors’ Chapter 11 cases are tremendously complex and are occurring while the cable industry is rapidly changing due to subscribers’ persistent ‘cord cutting’ as they move away from traditional cable and satellite multichannel video distributors,” the company said in a court filing. “Navigating these choppy waters requires discussions with, and cooperation from, many parties, including multiple creditor groups, sports leagues, teams and MVPDs.”

As the MLB season continued, Diamond terminated its agreements with the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, leading MLB to assume control over those media rights. With seasons for both the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association quickly approaching, both leagues are reportedly in discussions with the outlet. While there were reports about the leagues agreeing to a deal that would result in less remuneration doled out to its teams, no such compromise has been reached. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that if Diamond is able to emerge from its bankruptcy, both leagues would expect those rights fees to be slashed on a team-by-team basis.

Diamond recently came to terms on a one-year rights renewal with DIRECTV, ensuring that the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks stay on the air for the next 12 months. DIRECTV had a provision in its existing contract that would have allowed it to renegotiate the RSN deal, but it decided to neglect the use of that so it would not have to renegotiate Sinclair local broadcast channels as well.

The subsidiary’s deal with Charter Communications expires on Feb. 29, which could end up being a monumental negotiation based on how the next several months go for the company. Diamond is reportedly in active negotiations with Comcast to renew that carriage agreement, which comes shortly after a public strife between Charter and The Walt Disney Company that resulted in somewhat of a stalemate.

Through it all, Diamond is suing Sinclair, its parent company, alleging that it received more than $1.5 billion due to misconduct. Some of the claims brought forth by Diamond relate to the fraudulent transfer of assets, breach of contract and unjust enrichment, practices that it believes have harmed its creditors. In response, Sinclair denied these allegations and stated that it believes that Diamond will not emerge from its ongoing bankruptcy.

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Stephen A. Smith Reportedly Looking for a ‘Pat McAfee Agreement’ with ESPN

“…Smith covets the blockbuster deal that the network used to persuade McAfee to decamp last year from FanDuel.”

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Stephen A. Smith

Last week John Ourand of Puck reported the news that negotiations had begun between ESPN and top personality Stephen A. Smith, host and Executive Producer of First Take. The report said ESPN had made an initial offer of 5 years and $90 million which would make Smith the top paid talent at ESPN. Yesterday Ourand reported the deal Smith is looking for is similar to the deal ESPN has with Pat McAfee which brought his The Pat McAfee Show over from Fan Duel.

Ourand writes, “…Smith covets the blockbuster deal that the network used to persuade McAfee to decamp last year from FanDuel. Notably, ESPN pays McAfee’s production company, which operates his talk show, $25 million a year—a fee that covers all its operating costs: salaries, insurance, fixed costs, etcetera. ESPN has also offered him about $5 million a year to appear on College GameDay, sources told me(McAfee has yet to sign the deal.)”

Some in the media have responded to the story about Smith’s contract and point to how much work he is already doing for ESPN and how often he appears on the network. According to Ourand, Smith isn’t looking for less work, he may in fact be looking for more.

Ourand wrote in his subscription newsletter, The Varsity, that he has been told Smith and his agents with WME have said Smith would like to be more involved in production, appear on more of its NFL programs and be available for anything needed by the advertising and affiliate relations departments.

Smith has not commented on the current negotiations, but when asked by Clay Travis recently if being the highest paid person at ESPN is important to him, Smith said:

“Yes. I’m not stuttering. Hell yes. I’ve mastered my own business. In the world of sports television, Clay Travis, I’ve been number one for twelve years…not only have I been number one every year I’ve been number one every week and every month of every year for the last twelve years. You don’t get to say that about too many people…I am so honored to have the colleagues I have…I’m the one that’s been No. 1 and at the end of the day, it would be nice one day for this man to stand before everyone and be like, ‘I’m No. 1 and this says I’m No. 1.”

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Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque: WWE-Netflix Deal is a ‘Game-Changing Moment’

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal.”

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Paul "Triple H" Levesque
Courtesy: World Wrestling Entertainment

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) is bringing Raw to Netflix beginning in January 2025 in a deal that is reportedly worth $5 billion over 10 years. Netflix reportedly has the option to opt out of the agreement after the first five years and extend the deal for an additional 10 years. As a result, Raw will be moving away from NBCUniversal platforms and cable television as a whole for the first time in 31 years, presenting an opportunity for WWE to continue innovating its presentation in a new way. NBCUniversal-owned USA Network, however, will begin broadcasting SmackDown beginning this October. Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the chief content officer of WWE, was asked by Ty Schmit of The Pat McAfee Show if the company is thinking about what will change with the new presentation of Raw on Netflix.

Levesque appeared on the program following the announcement that WWE had agreed to a deal with Indiana Sports Corp. that will bring WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble to Indianapolis. Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, will host all three premium live events that will begin with Royal Rumble on Feb. 1, 2025. Other WWE properties, including Raw, SmackDown, NXT and WWE Live Events will take place from arenas across the state of Indiana, including Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville, during the partnership. As Raw prepares to move to Netflix next year, Levesque revealed that the company is projecting the capabilities that the new partnership will allow.

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal,” Levesque said. “It’s a streaming service. How are commercials going to work? How are breaks going to work? What’s the length of time? What are the restrictions [and] what are not restrictions?”

Levesque mentioned how there are times when FOX has had to cut the audio and/or video when instances occur that could violate FCC broadcasting rules and regulations. McAfee believed that he was referencing when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had the crowd engage in a call-and-response chant calling Austin Theory an “a**hole.”

“The Rock comes in and you sort of kind of can’t tell The Rock what to do – what are we going to tell him – so he does what he does, but we won’t have those issues [on] Netflix,” Levesque said. “The ability to be live globally; the ability to have everything seen all at once everywhere, it’s a game-changing moment, and I think in many ways – not to disparage other partners because we want to be everywhere, but that’s sort of where the world is heading, right, is streaming services.”

Prognosticating towards the future of the Raw presentation, Levesque believes sports entities are going to be watching how the WWE and Netflix agreement materializes. As it pertains to the business logistics of the deal, he expects to have leagues watching what they will be doing, acknowledging that the NFL also reached an agreement with Netflix to broadcast Christmas Day games.

“Everybody from live content is very thankful you guys did a deal with Netflix for a weekly live show,” McAfee said. “Just want to let you know that.”

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John Anderson to Join University of Missouri Faculty After Leaving SportsCenter

“Why wouldn’t you want to go play for the Yankees? That’s what Mizzou is.”

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Photo of John Anderson of ESPN from the Missouri School of Journalism
Photo Courtesy: Missouri School of Journalism

John Anderson, who announced in March that he would leave ESPN’s SportsCenter when his contract runs out at the end of the month, has found his landing spot. He will be joining the faculty at his alma mater, the University of Missouri. The Missouri School of Journalism said Anderson will be the school’s Endowed Chair in Radio and Television Journalism and will begin with the spring semester in January 2025.

Anderson, who joined ESPN in 1999 does plan to continue covering certain events, but after 25 years he thought it was time to stop doing ESPN’s flagship show. His final SportsCenter is scheduled for Friday, June 28.

    “My contract runs out at ESPN at the end of June,” Anderson said on his podcast back in March. “I have decided that that will be the end. I’m going to leave the company. I’m going to sort of retire from ‘SportsCenter.’ I’m going to get to do a few track-and-field things, I’m going to get to continue to do the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon – which I love – and some NCAA track meets and some SEC stuff.

    “I am incredibly excited about that. It’s been a good run…I feel like it’s been a good run. The operation has changed. I don’t know that it’s passed me by, but it’s taken its toll and I still want to be able to do the best shows that I can, and I don’t know that if in years 26 or 27 I have the stamina to do it again.”

    About his new role, Anderson said in a release from the school, “Why wouldn’t you want to go play for the Yankees? That’s what Mizzou is. If you’re going to go play, why not go play for the team with all the world titles? I could not have thought of a better post-ESPN landing spot.”

    Anderson said he comes from a long line of educators. “My grandparents were teachers, and my mother, being raised by those people, had respect for teachers. Two of my uncles taught math. That sort of trickled down to me,” he said.

    “John has kept fans and aspiring sports journalists in the know for more than two decades, and I’m so excited that he has chosen to bring that experience back to his alma mater for the benefit of new generations of students,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism said in a release.

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