A month after I summoned a very smart sports business reporter to help us all get a better understanding of whatever the hell is going on with Bally Sports Southwest, we have some long-awaited clarity. Sort of.
This morning, Diamond Sports Group, BSSW’s very bankrupt parent company, announced a restructuring. You can read the statement if you want the nitty gritty on who gets paid what, but the part that matters most to us normal folk is Diamond’s new minority investor: Amazon, whose stake will see the media giant stream games—including pre- and post-game shows—on Prime Video.
That is a very big deal! With significant caveats. We do not know, among other things, whether a bankruptcy-court judge will approve this deal, when it would go into effect, the pricing structure, blackout restrictions, and so on.
We’re not even sure which North Texas teams will take part in it. As The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov, the aforementioned very smart sports business reporter, reminded us in December, Diamond Sports has agreements with the NBA and NHL to continue broadcasting for the 26 combined teams on Bally Sports regional networks through their current seasons (and, it seems, likely beyond).
Diamond has not, however, hammered out a full agreement with MLB. So presuming this deal goes into effect sometime in the near future—Amazon will want to maximize its return on investment—we should expect to see the Mavericks and Stars on Prime sooner than later. If you are a fan of either or both who has been unable to watch the teams, your moment of relief is near.
The Rangers are a different story. Texas is one of two MLB teams, along with the Cleveland Guardians, that Bally has considered dropping from their linear broadcast deals, which has led to a sort of financial paralysis with ownership as it contemplates how to approach the rest of the offseason (most notably, whether or not to re-sign Jordan Montgomery to front the rotation). So far, we don’t know if the Rangers broadcasting rights will be absorbed into this deal, although a Diamond Sports lawyer is at minimum strongly hinting that they won’t be during a hearing Wednesday. A lawyer representing the Rangers told the court that the team will evaluate whether to accept a reduced rights fee to stay with Diamond or take back their broadcast rights and explore other options.
Even if the Rangers do return to the fold in some capacity, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be part of Amazon’s streaming arrangement; Bally only holds streaming rights for five of its 11 MLB teams. That’s before considering what financial restitution could be in the cards if Texas is cut out entirely, to say nothing of how that will impact the rest of the Rangers’ championship defense or long-term broadcast destination.
And all of this is before the really big-picture questions about what Amazon’s continued foray into sports broadcasting might due to local television writ large, and what that could mean for the local teams down the road.
Today’s news is not the resolution of this years-long headache so much as the start of a big shift that, if nothing else, should make things better for fans in the near-term. For now, Diamond Sports isn’t going away. But at least it’s going in a direction that will help plenty more people watch their teams play.