Bally Sports Atlanta Plays On Despite National RSN Troubles

Bally Sports, owned by Diamond Sports Group, seems to be headed for tough times. But at least in Atlanta’s Bally Sports affiliate, it remains business as usual.

Nationally, DSG, a subsidiary of broadcaster Sinclair, inc., claims that it’s losing money on its network of regional sports networks (RSNs) it acquired from Disney when the Mouse House purchased Fox networks in 2019. DSG has been trying to make the RSNs profitable ever since, but because of a declining cable subscriber base thanks to growing cord-cutting, they have instead been losing money, and the situation is increasingly serious.

DSG filed for bankruptcy in March after missing a $140 million interest payment to its creditors. It missed payments to at least five MLB teams, causing one, the San Diego Padres, to have their broadcast rights taken over by Major League Baseball.

While DSG has been struggling in some markets with their team broadcast rights, Atlanta is a different story for now. Bally Sports South is currently in its 149-game season with the Braves. The Atlanta Dream, the city’s WNBA franchise, just started its 28-game lineup on the RSN. No indication yet by either the teams or DSG on whether those deals will extend beyond the current seasons.

No word yet also on plans going forward with Bally for the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta United is on Apple TV with the other MLS teams, and the Atlanta Falcons are on WAGA Fox 5 as part of station owner Fox Corporation’s blanket NFC package with the NFL.

If things go awry between DSG and Atlanta’s teams that are pledged to Bally Sports South, there are options locally that the Braves, Dream, and Hawks can turn to. The teams can stream their games themselves, as the Padres are doing after the Bally outlet there stopped carrying their games. Their ownership leagues can also sign up with streaming services like Hulu, YouTube or other similar services. Or the Hawks/Dream/United could strike deals with local TV stations like WPCH, WATL, and the newly independent WUPA. Local sports lived on local TV stations before RSNs were launched. (Remember Turner’s SportsSouth before Fox bought it?) Several Phoenix sports teams signed with Gray TV’s stations in lieu of the Bally’s affiliate in that market.

Scripps, a TV/network owner, is launching a sports network and has signaled an interest in adding local sports to their programming mix. Also, could ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and Fox’s FS1 add more local sports themselves if DSG continues to struggle?

DSG is trying to map out a financial solution, like separating from parent owner Sinclair, to keep Bally’s going, hoping the rolling snowball of team defections doesn’t become an avalanche. That said, there’s more than a few enites out there besides DSG with a vested interest in making sure fans see their favorite teams play. It’s working out who gets the rights, how much to pay for those rights and how to stem the ever declining cable audience base that needs to be worked out.

Image credit: Bally Sports