Diamond Sports Group has yet to reach a restructuring resolution with its creditors as the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) seasons commence. While local broadcasts within Major League Baseball (MLB) are complete for the 2023 campaign, the league is taking initiative to ensure it does not find itself in an inauspicious situation once Opening Day arrives next year. After Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. emphatically rejected a proposal to grant Diamond Sports Group coveted direct-to-consumer (DTC) broadcast rights from Sinclair executive chairman David Smith, the subsidiary declared Ch. 11 bankruptcy shortly thereafter.
The league wants to eliminate ambiguity heading into next season, wherefore it filed a motion with the bankruptcy court to gain clarity on how the company would operate heading into the new year. This motion also included five clubs that are broadcast – and were paid – by Diamond Sports Group through the 2023 season: the Atlanta Braves; Cleveland Guardians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers.
“The Debtors have had nearly seven months to formulate a viable plan of reorganization, and yet they have made no progress toward reorganization and no progress in negotiations with their creditors,” the league stated in the motion. “Instead of progressing towards a compromise with their creditors and finding a path out of bankruptcy, since the Petition Date, the Debtors have elected to pick costly and time consuming fights with other third parties.”
MLB states that Diamond Sports Group already knows which agreements it will likely reject in 2024, and also shared that it recognizes that the company has reached out to several clubs, indicating that they are not part of their future plans. Diamond, however, has yet to substantiate the conversation with a subsequent contract rejections, complicating matters and harming its rightsholders, according to the league.
“The Debtors’ conduct therefore smacks as an attempt to leverage the protections of Ch. 11 for improper purposes,” the league said. “There is no question that the Debtors have had sufficient time to reach their decisions, and it is time for them to formally and publicly make their decision clear.”
Diamond Sports Group was supposed to have a restructuring plan submitted for review on Oct. 11, but the company was unable to come to a resolution and requested an extension through and including Dec. 31, 2023. If the Sinclair subsidiary receives its wish, these complex and imperative proceedings could continue into the new year. Major League Baseball argues that the litigation has been both expensive and expedited, and that there has been no progress. Moreover, the premise of exclusivity, it claims, is being used as a “bargaining chip” and puts pressure on the league and its member clubs as it prepares for the new year.
“After nearly seven months of Ch. 11 protection, one extension of exclusivity and more than one month of court-ordered mediation, the Debtors still have no plan of reorganization and no go-forward business plan,” the league stated in the motion. “It is now clear that the Debtors have never been in a position to achieve the requisite consensus to adopt a viable strategy.”
Diamond rejected contracts for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks last season, power it possessed under bankruptcy law, and the league was ready to step in and produce the games. Moreover, those teams received at least 80% of the rights fees owed to them throughout the season.
Within its motion, the league expressed that it expects another team to lose its regional broadcasting rights by the end of the World Series. While that club was not identified, it should be noted that the Minnesota Twins’ pact with Bally Sports North expires immediately upon the conclusion of the 2023 World Series.
If the motion from Major League Baseball is successful, Diamond would have five days to finalize its plans for the 2024 regular season. Furthermore, the league feels that if the company is unable to do so, it would interpret it is a blunt rejection of the deal. MLB believes that the longer the company is in bankruptcy, the less likely a resolution is reached. Court records demonstrate a decline of almost 90% of cash on hand, which equates to under $22 million.
“Diamond disputes MLB’s misguided attempt to oppose a customary extension in a complex, multibillion-dollar restructuring involving myriad stakeholders, with whom Diamond is making significant progress,” Diamond Sports Group said in a statement. “[Diamond] is current in its rights payments and has satisfied its broadcasting obligations to all MLB teams under contract for the now concluded 2023 MLB regular season.”
“The Debtors’ time is up,” the league stated. “There is simply no justification for a further extension of exclusivity. Parties-in-interest should not be compelled to wait endlessly as the Debtors continue to hope that a magic solution will appear.”
SEC Commissioner Tells Pat McAfee Someone at ESPN Leaked 2024 Schedule Without Permission
“We were trying to protect it. Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it.”
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey isn’t particularly thrilled that his new top broadcast partner leaked a portion of next year’s schedule a bit early.
During an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, which just so happens to be an ESPN property, Sankey mentioned his displeasure at the Worldwide Leader for leaking a portion of the 2024 SEC schedule early. According to Sankey, the league and the network agreed to release the schedule together in the near future.
“We were trying to protect it,” Sankey said. “Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it,” according to Yahoo Sports college football reporter Ross Dellenger.
While leaks in the media space are hardly a new phenomenon, especially when it comes to something as desirable as a football conference’s yearly schedule, a leak this early in the newly-formed ESPN-SEC relationship is less than ideal. Starting next season, ESPN will take over as the SEC’s primary broadcast partner, assuming the position CBS had long held for decades.
In the leaked portion of the schedule, the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide will play in the regular season for just the third time in the past 15 years. We also know the Bulldogs will play the debuting Texas Longhorns in Texas, while the Tide will play the other Oklahoma Sooners on the road.
Jeff Kotuby is a nationally-published journalist with bylines on many popular broadcasting and pop culture sites, including The Streamable, eBaum’s World, Twin Galaxies, and more. Jeff grew up in the shadows of New York City and cultivated his love for sports media with the classic broadcasting voices of the area, like Mike & The Mad Dog, Mike “Doc” Emerick, and Michael Kay. You can reach Jeff on Twitter @JeffKotu3y.
Jim Boeheim Making Analyst Debut on ACC Network, Joining The CW
Former Syracuse Orange basketball head coach Jim Boeheim will make his debut as an analyst on Saturday, Dec. 2 on the ACC Network. Boeheim will be on the broadcast for the matchup between Florida State and North Carolina at 2 PM ET featuring play-by-play announcer Wes Durham and sideline reporter Cory Alexander.
Boeheim will make his studio debut on Tuesday, Dec. 5 during halftime of the men’s prime-time doubleheader games on the day – which consists of Central Connecticut against Boston College at 6 PM ET, followed by Cornell taking on Syracuse at 8 PM ET.
On the program, he will be joined by host Kelsey Riggs and analyst Luke Hancock, and he will also remain on the air for the 10 p.m. edition of Nothing But Net, the network’s signature basketball show.
Additionally, Jim Boeheim also joined Westwood One and is reportedly set to work on The CW coverage of ACC basketball, debuting this Saturday with pre-taped segments during halftime of two conference games. News of Boeheim working with The CW was first reported by Mike Waters of Syracuse.com.
Boeheim departed Syracuse University after 47 seasons as a coach and holding an overall win-loss record of 1,015-441. He has the second-most wins at the Division I level in the history of college basketball, only being surpassed by former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Dan Le Batard: I Thought Pat McAfee Would Grow College GameDay, But That Hasn’t Happened
Le Batard said McAfee is playing under a different set of rules than others at ESPN.
Pat McAfee has checked all the boxes Disney and ESPN leadership had when the former NFL punter brought his daily sports talk show into the fray, but one area where it seems like the waters aren’t so smooth for McAfee is in his reception as an analyst on College GameDay.
GameDay viewers have not shied away from making their feelings known that they don’t like seeing McAfee on the show, and Dan Le Batard has found the criticism quite interesting.
On The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Thursday, Le Batard said he thought having Pat McAfee on GameDay would continue taking the show to the next level, but it turns out he was wrong in some respects.
“And so they get McAfee and they give him a new set of rules,” Le Batard said. “But I thought that would result in College GameDay getting bigger and better. More popular. I underestimated the allegiance that the viewer has to David Pollack.”
“I’m reading him and everyone around him saying he’s a good teammate, they all love him, they’re all getting along with him,” Le Batard added. “He is effusive, he is such a positive person. He is effusive in his praise for the people on that sat. But now the numbers are coming back, and this is something that McAfee couldn’t have expected.”
Executive producer Mike Ruiz chimed in saying that a contributing factor in the changing conditions at GameDay is due to the mass layoffs and non-renewals of more expensive talent over the last couple years. He said there was going to be a natural need to switch things up after cutting ties with the likes of Pollack, Tom Rinaldi, and Chris “The Bear” Fallica.
“The format of the show when you take someone like that, you’re changing it,” Ruiz said. “You’re changing the emotional stories that made you cry in advance of a Purdue/Ohio State game. All that stuff starts going away. And now it’s not just going away, some of that stuff is going to FOX.”
Dan Le Batard responded saying he wasn’t trying to blame Pat McAfee for Big Noon Kickoff closing the gap on GameDay and negative fan feedback. But all of a sudden now that FOX can tout its pregame show continuing to grow and be a successful alternative to ESPN’s product, the narrative shifts.
“I always say perception is not reality, but when all you have is perception and fudged numbers, FOX is saying, ‘We’ve caught College GameDay. We’ve caught one of the most popular shows in the history of sports television,'” Le Batard said.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.