Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Source: Bally in peril, MLB forms economic committee

- By Ronald Blum

NEW YORK — Concerned about a possible bankruptcy for the company that owns local broadcasti­ng rights to 14 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams, the league has formed a new economic study committee that will gather next week at the owners’ meetings in Palm Beach, Florida.

The existence of the committee was disclosed to Associated Press by a person familiar with the planning who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announceme­nt had been made.

The committee also will examine revenue disparity among MLB clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Mark Walter and Detroit Tigers chairman Chris Ilitch are among the committee members, the person said.

Baseball executives have said in recent weeks that the sport needs to prepare in the event that rights-fee payments are not made by Diamond Sports Group, the subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group that operates networks under the name Bally Sports. Cable networks have lost subscriber­s and revenue in recent years due to cord-cutting.

Diamond owns rights to the broadcasts for the Arizona Diamondbac­ks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.

In South Florida, Bally Sports Sun and Bally Sports Florida own broadcast rights to the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers games, as well.

Billy Chambers, who had been Sinclair’s chief financial offer, started work this week with MLB in a new position as executive vice president for local media.

The Walt Disney Company acquired the regional sports networks in its purchase of 21st Century Fox in March 2019.

In August, Sinclair said it had bought 21 regional sports networks and Fox College Sports from Disney in a deal that valued those assets for $10.6 billion.

At the time, Disney sold the equity it acquired from Fox in the Yankees’ YES Network to a newly formed investor group that includes Yankee Global Enterprise­s and Sinclair, a group that held the 80% of YES not previously held by the Yankees, for a total enterprise value of $3.47 billion.

Sinclair also holds rights to many NBA and NHL teams and has a joint venture interest in Marquee Sports Network, which broadcasts the Chicago Cubs.

This offseason, salaries have risen following last year’s agreement on a five-year labor contract with the players’ associatio­n. And payrolls rose 12.6% to a $4.56 billion last year, breaking the previous record set in 2017, and are set to go even higher this year. The New York Mets, entering their third season under owner Steve Cohen, currently project a payroll of about $370 million — which would smash the previous high of $291 million by the 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers.

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