Amazon, Bally Sports announce partnership

Amazon to invest in Bally parent Diamond; could save RSN

It looks like Bally Sports, targeted for extinction this fall due to bankruptcy, may be saved after all.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced they were taking a minority stake in Bally Sports parent Diamond Sports as part of a bankruptcy restructuring agreement. This means Amazon could potentially stream Bally’s teams on Prime Video in markers where the regional sports network operates.

Bally owns the rights to 37 professional sports teams – fifteen from the NBA, and eleven each from MLB and the NHL. Except for the Chicago area, Bally owns the rights to almost all Midwestern teams including the Milwaukee Bucks, St. Louis Cardinals, and Minnesota Wild, to name a few (their deal with the Minnesota Twins expired last October.)

Amazon’s minority stake – coupled with Diamond Sports agreeing to a $495 million lawsuit settlement with Sinclair. gives them a plan to exit bankruptcy – a scenario that looked impossible just a few weeks ago, as the network reportedly planned to wind down operations this fall as they agreed to end their contracts with the NBA and NHL after this current season – a plan now likely scuttled due to the new investment.

“We are thrilled to have reached a comprehensive restructuring agreement that provides a detailed framework for a reorganization plan and substantial new financing that will enable Diamond to operate and thrive beyond 2024,” Diamond CEO Davis Preschlack said in a press release. “We are grateful for the support from Amazon and a group of our largest creditors who clearly believe in the value-creating potential of this business. Diamond’s near-term focus will be on implementing the RSA and emerging from bankruptcy as a going concern for the benefit of our investors, our employees, our team, league and distribution partners, and the millions of fans who will continue to enjoy our broadcasts.”

Amazon has been beefing up its sports portfolio in recent years, acquiring the rights to Thursday Night Football and recently agreeing to air NASCAR races and PBC Boxing. Amazon already has a stake in the YES Network and streams games featuring the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets in the New York City metropolitan area.

But the Amazon investment doesn’t solve the equation of the future of Bally Sports. For one, Bally still doesn’t have streaming rights to roughly half of its MLB teams  – so unless MLB allows Amazon to acquire the rights – which isn’t likely, those teams will stay off Prime Video. Pricing has also yet to be worked out, but it is likely fans would have to pay for a separate subscription for those games apart from Prime. 

A report also surfaced Wednesday stating Diamond is looking to revert to their previous NBA and NHL contracts if this deal is approved by the judge. This means three NBA teams who recently struck deals with over-the-air broadcasters to carry at least ten games this season – the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, could be terminated and move back to cable given Bally produces those games in the first place. But with the Pelicans drawing far more viewers on Fox affiliate WVUE for their ten-game Friday night package than they ever did on Bally Sports New Orleans, they may keep that option. 

There is no word on where the MLB, NBA, and NHL stand on this development as they have yet to comment. But MLB hasn’t had the best relationship with Bally, especially during their bankruptcy. “We will refrain from offering [Diamond] congratulations”, an MLB lawyer snarkily told Awful Announcing Wednesday.

Keep in mind all of this is preliminary, and this agreement has the potential to change. But Amazon’s investment might have saved the RSN business from going belly up in what could be described as a bailout deal by Big Tech. Whether this is in the best interest of fans and sports in general remains to be seen.


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