Comcast pulls Bally Sports channels, imperiling US broadcaster’s restructuring

May 1, 2024 – 1:48 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cable provider Comcast (CMCSA.O) stopped broadcasting Bally Sports channels on Wednesday, taking some MLB games off the air and imperiling the bankruptcy restructuring of the sports channels’ operating company.


Diamond Sports, a Sinclair (SBGI.O) subsidiary that broadcasts nearly half of all MLB, NHL and NBA games, has said that its bankruptcy restructuring depends on renewed deals with three major cable partners, including Comcast, that provide 80% of the company’s revenue.

“It’s disappointing that Comcast rejected a proposed extension that would have kept our channels on the air and that Comcast indicated that it intends to pull the signals, preventing fans from watching their favorite local teams,” Diamond said in a statement.

Diamond said it hopes to continue negotiations with Comcast, the second-largest cable provider in the U.S., after its current deal expired at midnight on Tuesday.

Comcast said it has been “very flexible” with Diamond Sports during its bankruptcy, but talks on a new deal had reached an impasse.

“We’d like to continue carrying their networks, but they have declined multiple offers,” Comcast said in a statement.

Diamond operates 18 Bally Sports channels that broadcast baseball, hockey and basketball games in their local areas. MLB teams, which are about a month into the season, are affected immediately as games become unavailable to Comcast subscribers.

Diamond currently has broadcast rights for 12 MLB teams including the 2023 World Series champion Texas Rangers, the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Diamond filed for bankruptcy in March 2023, caught between expensive broadcast rights agreements and a drop in revenue due to cord-cutting by sports viewers. The sports broadcaster wants to restructure and eliminate over $8 billion in debt. A streaming deal with (AMZN.O) signed in January would provide the company with additional funding.

Diamond has reached long-term agreements with its other critical cable partners, DirecTV [RIC:RIC:DTVHO.UL] and Charter (CHTR.O). Diamond and DirecTV announced their new deal on Wednesday, after Diamond’s Comcast deal ended.

DirecTV said on Wednesday that it looked forward to working with Diamond “for years to come” and called Diamond’s sports channels “a key component of our live sports offering.”

Diamond is trying to finalize new long-term deals with cable companies, the NHL and NBA before a June bankruptcy court hearing on its restructuring.

Diamond is not negotiating new deals with MLB teams, instead seeking to keep its current MLB contracts unchanged during the bankruptcy.

Reporting by Dietrich Knauth, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Cynthia Osterman

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