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MLB Says ‘Time is Up’ for Diamond Bankruptcy in New Court Motion

“There is simply no justification for a further extension of exclusivity.”

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Major League Baseball
Courtesy: Major League Baseball

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.”

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Report: Netflix Looking for Production Partner for NFL Christmas Day Game Broadcasts

The report also indicates that there could be “more resistance among current NFL partners to help out Netflix” because the company may be looking to become a long-term media rights partner for the league in the future.

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Netflix will stream two National Football League games on Christmas Day this year as part of a new deal with the league that was inked ahead of the official release of the regular-season schedule. The company is starting to prepare for these matchups by reportedly reaching out to broadcasters in an effort to find a partner to produce these matchups, the first of which is an AFC tilt between the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. EST. Some of the broadcasters with whom Netflix has reportedly spoken with are ESPN, NBCUniversal and CBS Sports, according to a new report from Lillian Rizzo and Alex Sherman of CNBC.

The Walt Disney Company, which has a majority ownership stake of ESPN, will reportedly not produce these games since it has college football matchups on the same day, according to people familiar with the situation. CBS Sports and FOX Sports produce several games in different regions every week, which could make producing games with Netflix somewhat of a burden. The report also indicates that there could be “more resistance among current NFL partners to help out Netflix” because the company may be looking to become a long-term media rights partner for the league in the future. The NFL is able to opt out of its current media contracts following the 2029-30 season.

Over the years, Netflix has produced a variety of sports-related content in the form of documentaries and live specials. The company signed a media rights agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment to become the new broadcast home of the WWE Raw series beginning in 2025 reportedly worth $5 billion over 10 years.

Netflix also released the trailer for Receiver, the NFL docuseries following players on and off the field throughout the 2023-24 season, which is produced by NFL Films, Omaha Productions and 2PM Productions. The eight-episode series, which is a sequel to Quarterback, will feature Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

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Amazon Prime Video to Broadcast Weekly NHL Whiparound Show in Canada

“We are thrilled to work with NHL Productions on this new concept for hockey offering the ultimate destination for all the NHL action.”

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Courtesy: National Hockey League, Prime Video & Amazon MGM Studios

The National Hockey League and Amazon’s Prime Video have announced the creation of NHL Coast To Coast, a new weekly whiparound live look-in show airing on Thursday nights in Canada. This new program will feature live views, highlights and analysis of every NHL game on the schedule as Prime Video prepares to embark on a two-year sublicensing deal with the league and Rogers Communications to present live games on Monday nights. The series is produced by NHL Productions in collaboration with Prime Video, and more information, including details surrounding the talent and production for the show, will be revealed at a later date.

“We are thrilled to work with NHL Productions on this new concept for hockey offering the ultimate destination for all the NHL action,” Magda Grace, head of Prime Video, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement. “NHL Coast To Coast will provide fans with a comprehensive look at the latest key moments in games, as-they-happen highlights, interviews and analysis from the world of hockey featuring top players, coaches and commentators. The show will bring innovation and offer more to fans of the game than ever before, all in one place with their Prime membership.”

Earlier in the month, Prime Video and NHL Productions unveiled an untitled docuseries with Box to Box Films that will provide consumers with access to compelling players from around the league at different stages of their careers all trying to win the Stanley Cup. The series will include interviews with players, their rivals and those in their inner circle, trying to accurately depict what life is like for these players on and off the ice.

Amazon and the NHL have worked together since 2021 on their cloud-based delivery system, which has facilitated the delivery of in-game analytics and video highlights to enhance the overall fan experience. Among these ventures is the NHL Edge IQ stats portfolio that implements advanced analytical outputs to engender a better understanding of the on-ice action.

NHL Coast To Coast is yet another example of Amazon’s extraordinary investment in hockey programming and commitment to delivering an enhanced viewing experience for hockey fans,” Steve Mayer, senior executive vice president and chief content officer of the National Hockey League, said in a statement. “We are impressed with Amazon’s all-in approach to hockey and the NHL. Together with our amazing team at NHL Productions, Amazon continues to build on its mission to serve hockey fans across Canada with whiparound coverage that will make Thursday nights appointment viewing.”

Over the last several years, Amazon has expanded its presence in sports media through the acquisition of broadcasting rights within the National Football League, NASCAR, National Women’s Soccer League and Overtime Elite. The company is reportedly set to acquire media rights within the National Basketball Association’s new broadcasting deal, which is also said to include The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) and NBCUniversal, although no deals have currently been announced.

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NBC Sports Announces Olympic Commentators for Swimming, Diving, Track and Gymnastics

In swimming, Dan Hicks, covering his 14th Olympics, will once again work with Rowdy Gaines.

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U.S. Olympic Team Trials for swimming, diving, track & field and gymnastics will be taking place from June 15-June 30 for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Those trials will be presented across NBC, Peacock and USA Network. With that, NBC Sports also announced its roster of announcers who will call those sports during the Olympics.

In swimming, Dan Hicks, covering his 14th Olympics, will once again work with Rowdy Gaines. The pair will have Elizabeth Beisel, working her second Olympics and Melissa Stark who will be working her fourth Olympics.

Jason Knapp will also provide swimming play-by-play and he will do so with Amy Van Dyken and Heathe Olson as analysts.

In diving, Ted Robinson will call the play-by-play and work with analysts Cynthia Potter and Laura Wilkinson. Andrea Joyce will serve as a reporter. Robinson will be working his 14th overall Olympics and 13th with NBC.

Track & Field will have Leigh Diffey, Paul Swangard and Bill Spaulding calling the play-by-play. Analysts for track include Ato Boldon, Sanya Richards-Ross, Kara Goucher, Trey Hardee, Lewis Johnson, Dawn Harper-Nelson and Shannon Rowbury.

Terry Gannon and Rich Lerner will be on play-by-play for gymnastics. Gannon will work the primetime show with analysts Tim Daggett, Samantha Peszek, John Roethlisberger and Zora Stephenson. Lerner will be teamed with Laurie Hernandez and Justin Spring.

The Olympics will conclude on August 11.

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