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Diamond Sports Group Expects to Continue Broadcasting Through 2024 MLB Season

“The Movants have asked for clarity on the 2024 MLB season. Now they have it.”

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Bally Sports – Target Field
Courtesy: David Berding, Getty Images

After Major League Baseball told a bankruptcy court that it wanted a resolution on the status of local rights under contract with Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks under ownership of Diamond Sports Group, there seems to be more information on the forthcoming situation. Coinciding with the retirement of longtime television play-by-play voice Dick Bremer, the company’s contract with the Minnesota Twins on Bally Sports North has expired.

The company paid the team $54.8 million according to a court document filed by Diamond Sports Group, and there was no mention of a potential renewal. If the company does not reach a deal to renew play-by-play rights, it would mark the third Major League Baseball team whose regional broadcasting rights have been dropped in the last year.

Diamond Sports Group is in the midst of negotiating restructured contracts with its local teams. Earlier this week, it reached an agreement with the NBA that involves a reduction in rights payment in exchange for the rights to revert back to teams upon the end of the season. The move comes ahead of the expiration of the league’s media rights deal at the end of the 2024-25 regular season, which could precipitate exploring new ways to reimagine regional broadcast rights distribution.

As the company works through a recently extended exclusivity period that lasts until January 29, 2024 to file a restructuring plan to attempt to emerge from Ch. 11 bankruptcy rather than liquidate its business, it pointed to significant progress over the last 60 days with its debtors.

The filings revealed that under the transition plan it has deliberated, Diamond Sports Group will continue to operate and broadcast content through the conclusion of the 2023-24 NBA and NHL seasons, along with the 2024 MLB season. MLB filed a rejection to the motion to extend the exclusivity period, something Diamond asserts will not prejudice the league or its member clubs and should alleviate any concerns regarding the ongoing circumstances.

Diamond Sports Group also stated that it will either reject or otherwise agree to terminate telecast rights agreements by Dec. 31, 2023 if it is unable to reach a deal with MLB. The debtors have shared the identities of the clubs it will continue broadcasting next season, along with those who could potentially be rejected or terminated by the end of the year.

“These actions give MLB and its clubs the clarity they demand in their Objection concerning the future treatment of their telecast rights agreements and give them time to transition to another broadcast partner before the start of the 2025 MLB season,” Diamond Sports Group said in the filing. “These actions will also minimize the risk of disruption to fans as the Debtors expect to continue broadcasting through the 2024 MLB season.”

During the 2023 MLB regular season, Diamond Sports Group rejected the broadcasting contract of the San Diego Padres. As a result, MLB utilized its newly created local media department to effectuate the production and dissemination of game broadcasts. Moreover, the league paid the Padres at least 80% of the remuneration originally included in the contract with Diamond. Shortly thereafter, the Arizona Diamondbacks, who went on to win the National League championship, also lost their broadcast home with Bally Sports Arizona. In a similar manner, the league stepped in and provided local broadcasts that had multiple functionalities for fans, including a direct-to-consumer option.

Last week, the Twins emphasized that the club is exploring alternate broadcast options as the marketplace shifts and the future becomes more ambiguous. The absence of a television contract heading into next season, along with pushing the payroll in several years, has led to Twins general manager Derek Falvey stating that he expects the payroll to decline for next year’s team.

“The Movants have asked for clarity on the 2024 MLB season. Now they have it,” stated the Ad Hoc First Lien Group of Diamond Sports Group in a subsequent court filing. “As outlined in the Debtors’ Objection, the Debtors have already communicated to MLB which Clubs’ games they intend to continue broadcasting for the 2024 season and which other agreements may be rejected or terminated in advance of the 2024 season (absent agreed upon modifications).

“Pending approval of the various settlements and entry of the orders contemplated by the Cooperation Agreement, the Clubs can begin preparing for the upcoming season with an understanding of which Clubs the Debtors intend to broadcast games for and which Clubs may have to find alternatives.”

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ESPN Announces Coverage Plans for Inaugural Two-Day NBA Draft

The ESPN team will feature Malika Andrews, Andraya Carter, Jay Bilas and Richard Jefferson. ABC will have Kevin Negandhi hosting alongside Stephen A. Smith and Bob Myers.

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Logo for ESPN and the 2024 NBA Draft

The NBA is set to debut a new format for its draft. Instead of doing both rounds in one night, this year will be the first time the league has used a two-day format with night one coming up on Wednesday, June 26 followed by night two on Thursday June 27. Television coverage will be provided by ESPN and ABC.

On Wednesday, ESPN will begin with NBA Today starting at 3 p.m. ET, which will be hosted by Christine Williamson, Kendrick Perkins, Austin Rivers and CJ McCollum. They will be followed by a Red Carpet Special at 5 p.m. ET with Cassidy Hubbarth, Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson. Coverage of the draft begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

The ESPN team will feature Malika Andrews, Andraya Carter, Jay Bilas and Richard Jefferson. ABC will have Kevin Negandhi hosting alongside Stephen A. Smith and Bob Myers.

ESPN reporters and insiders Monica McNutt, Adrian Wojnarowski, Bobby Marks and Jonathan Givony are set to appear on both broadcasts.

For Round 2 on Thursday, ESPN will again start with NBA Today at 3 p.m. ET with Christine Williamson, Kendrick Perkins, Austin Rivers and Tim Legler. That will be followed by coverage of the draft beginning at 4 p.m. ET with Malika Andrews, Stephen A. Smith, Bob Myers, Adrian Wojnarowski, Bobby Marks and Jonathan Givony.

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Michael Phelps Joining NBCUniversal Coverage of Olympic Games Paris 2024

“With his ability to analyze and entertain, our viewers are in for another gold-medal performance.”

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Michael Phelps
Courtesy: NBC Olympics & Paralympics on X

Michael Phelps, the 23-time Olympic gold medalist who is the most-decorated Olympic athlete of all time, will be joining NBCUniversal for coverage of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 this summer. Phelps returns to the coverage after being part of the broadcast during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and will provide his commentary and analysis on prime time and daytime shows in Paris on NBC and Peacock.

Additionally, he will join Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines in the broadcast booth for select swimming competition telecasts from the París La Défense Arena, along with correspondent/analyst Elizabeth Beisel and reporter Melissa Stark. Phelps will return to NBC and Peacock on Friday night broadcasting coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials-Swimming from Indianapolis, Ind. beginning at 8 p.m. EST/PST.

“We are excited to have Michael return to our coverage across both daytime and primetime, and of course, the place where no one knows more about winning – at the pool,” Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said in a statement. “With his ability to analyze and entertain, our viewers are in for another gold-medal performance.”

NBC has been televising coverage throughout the week live in prime time leading up to the Olympic games. The swimming trials are averaging 3.2 million viewers in prime time across NBC and Peacock, which is up 20% from the trials for the Olympic Games three years ago. The event is taking place from Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and has featured accomplished swimmers such as Katie Ledecky, Gretchen Walsh and Regan Smith. Moreover, the prime time broadcast of the diving competition on Monday and Tuesday from Knoxville, Tenn. is averaging 2.9 million viewers, a 39% rise from three years ago.

The International Olympic Committee granted NBCUniversal the U.S. media rights for the Olympic Games through 2032 for $7.65 billion. NBCUniversal has been the exclusive broadcast home of the Summer Olympic Games in the United States since 1988 when it produced 179.5 hours of broadcast coverage. The company is scheduled to broadcast the Olympic Games from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in 2026, Los Angeles, Calif. in 2028 and Brisbane, Australia in 2032, along with the 2030 Winter Olympic Games from a location to be determined.

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Report: Stephen A. Smith Offered $18 Million Per Year Contract by ESPN

“Smith has reportedly been seeking some $25 million per year.”

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Stephen A. Smith

Let the negotiations begin. John Ourand of Puck is reporting ESPN has made an initial offer to Stephen A. Smith whose contract ends in a year. Ourand reports the offer was for a 5-year deal worth a total of $90 million, or $18 million per year.

According to reports, Smith’s current deal with ESPN, which was signed in 2019, pays him $8 million per year. Smith hosts the daily morning show First Take, takes part in ESPN and ABC’s NBA coverage and also makes other appearances on the network. Away from ESPN, Smith hosts his podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show and also owns his own production company, Mr. SAS Productions

The 5-year, $90 million offer matches what Troy Aikman signed on for to do Monday Night Football and would put Smith at the top of the list as far as salaries at ESPN, however he and his representatives with WME might be looking for more, a lot more.

Ourand writes, “Smith has reportedly been seeking some $25 million per year. While $18 million might seem like a ton of dough, I’m told Stephen A. wants McAfee bucks. Indeed, WME’s response to ESPN was to point to Pat McAfee’s deal, which nets close to $30 million per year between his studio show and College GameDay appearances. WME also had the chutzpah to use ESPN’s $700 million deal with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions as a comp.”

Smith was a guest of Jim Rome on The Jim Rome Show recently and addressed some health concerns he had after being diagnosed with COVID-19 a few years ago. He ultimately said, “I’m getting myself in shape, and I’m not satisfied, and because I feel better than I’ve felt in 30 years, I feel like once upon a time when I thought that I had about a couple of years left, man, I think I can do this for another 25-30 years the way that I’m feeling.”

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