As expected, the company that owns the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks, which carry Rays and Lightning games locally, announced Tuesday that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
But in a news release, Diamond Sports Group indicated broadcasts of those teams’ games won’t be affected for now.
“(Diamond Sports Group) will continue broadcasting games and connecting fans across the country with the sports and teams they love,” David Preschlack, the company’s CEO, said in the release. “With the support of our creditors, we expect to execute a prompt and efficient reorganization and to emerge from the restructuring process as a stronger company.”
Preschlack indicated the company has approximately $8 billion of debt.
Diamond owns 19 regional sports networks under the Bally Sports banner, including Bally Sports Sun and Bally Sports Florida. Those networks have the rights to 42 professional teams: 14 baseball (including the Rays), 12 NHL (including the Lightning) and 16 NBA.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Diamond, bought the regional networks from The Walt Disney Co. at auction for roughly $10 billion in 2019. Tuesday’s release indicated that as part of the restructuring that accompanies the filing, Diamond will separate its business from Sinclair and become a standalone company.
The restructuring agreement further provides that Diamond’s first-lien lenders will be unimpaired, while Diamond’s other secured and unsecured creditors will equitize their debt in exchange for equity and warrants issued by reorganized Diamond.
“We deeply appreciate the hard work and commitment of our employees, who remain focused on producing high quality sports games that our fans have come to expect,” Preschlack added. “We look forward to working constructively with our team and league partners and all DSG stakeholders throughout this process and beyond.”
Bally Sports broadcast Tuesday afternoon’s Rays-Twins spring training game at Tropicana Field, as well as the Lightning’s game in New Jersey that evening.
The Lightning play only 14 more regular-season games before the postseason, at which time regional rights holders can broadcast opening-round playoff games. All postseason broadcasts after that are broadcast exclusively by national rights holders.
As for the Rays, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told the Associated Press in February that MLB would be in a position to step in if Diamond is unable to broadcast games.
If Diamond doesn’t pay its MLB teams, Manfred said, the clubs would terminate their contracts.
“We would produce the games,” Manfred said. “We would make use of our asset with the MLB Network to do that. We would go directly to distributors — Comcast, Charter, the big distributors — and make an agreement to have those games distributed on cable networks.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.