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Broadcaster says MLB streaming dispute pushed it toward bankruptcy

Diamond Sports Group, which owns the broadcasting rights of 14 Major League Baseball teams, said on Thursday the league’s desire to broadcast games directly to fans helped push the company’s regional sports networks into bankruptcy.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group subsidiary filed for Chapter 11 protection on Tuesday, citing its high debt, outdated broadcast rights agreements and sports viewers’ cord-cutting trend.

Diamond attorney Andrew Goldman said during the company’s first bankruptcy hearing in Houston that it needs the right to stream MLB games online to make up for lost revenue from declining customer cable subscriptions.

“The (MLB) Commissioner’s office has made it clear that they want to take back the rights and go it alone, which will effectively drive us out of the market if they are successful,” Goldman told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez.

MLB’s attorney, James Bromley, responded that Diamond cannot force teams to provide additional streaming rights or make up for declining cable revenue.

“We are dealing with a broken model, and it is not the responsibility of MLB to fix that model,” Bromley said.

MLB said in a statement that it was ready to broadcast games online if the bankruptcy causes any short-term disruption.

Diamond, which also broadcasts games of 16 National Basketball Association teams and 12 National Hockey League teams, has negotiated additional streaming rights for their games, Goldman said.

Diamond is “willing to pay fair value” for MLB streaming rights and it previously reached streaming agreements with five MLB teams, Goldman said.

However, he said MLB has instructed nine other teams not to allow Diamond to stream their games online.

National cable subscriptions declined to 62 million in 2022 from 83 million in 2019, dragging Diamond’s revenue down 24% over that period, the broadcaster’s court filings showed.

Diamond intends to continue broadcasting games and making payments to teams during its bankruptcy. It has a restructuring deal that allows lenders to take ownership and eliminate nearly $8 billion in debt. Reuters

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