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.”
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.