The Columbus Dispatch
Blue Jackets broadcaster Bally Sports moves closer to filing for bankruptcy
Diamond Sports Group, the largest owner of regional sports networks, missed a $140 million interest payment, which puts the company closer to filing for bankruptcy.
Two people familiar with the financing plans told The Associated Press that the missed interest payments would begin a 30-day grace period, where Diamond Sports Group could negotiate with creditors and restructure its debt. Another avenue could be a pre-arranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not at liberty to discuss financial transactions.
Diamond owns 19 networks under the Bally Sports banner. Those networks have the rights to 42 professional teams — 14 baseball, 16 NBA and 12 NHL.
The broadcaster airs Columbus Blue Jackets, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Cavaliers games on Bally Sports Ohio, and Cleveland Guardians games on Bally Sports Great Lakes.
Bloomberg reported last month that Diamond Sports Group has an overall debt of $8.6 billion.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Diamond, bought the regional sports networks from Walt Disney Company for nearly $10 billion in 2019. Disney was required by the Department of Justice to sell the networks in order for its acquisition of 21st Century Fox's film and television assets to be approved.
Diamond has nearly $1 billion in
rights payments, mostly to baseball teams, due in the first quarter this year. Commissioner Rob Manfred told the AP that MLB would be in a position to step in if Diamond was unable to broadcast games.
“Our goal would be to make games available not only within the traditional cable bundle but on the digital side, as well,” Manfred said. “What we do is largely dependent on how Diamond and the creditors play their cards, what they decide to do.”
Bally Sports has tried to offset the effects of cord cutting by offering a Bally Sports+ digital package, allowing fans in some markets to bypass cable and stream games for $20 a month or $190 per year.