As most of you most likely know, Sinclair has removed all of the Bally Sports channels from basically every streaming TV service as their contracts have expired. Raising prices for renewal way above what these services want to pay. We’ve seen Bally Sports get removed from Hulu + Live TV, Fubo TV and YouTube TV in the past year or so. Why? Because Sinclair wants to use these networks to create its own streaming service.
Yes, you heard that right. Another streaming service. Because we didn’t have enough already. But this one will be uniquely bad.
You see, Sinclair is basically building a streaming service for its regional sports networks. It has 21 of these networks, which it got from Disney, when they bought Fox. Disney needed to divest the Fox Sports networks, since it already owned ESPN. So Sinclair stepped up and bought them for a whopping $9.6 billion.
They then decided to rebrand it to Bally Sports, this made sense since they were no longer Fox channels. But Bally just seems odd. The first thing I think of when I hear “Bally” is “Bally Total Fitness” which went out of business in 2016. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that. This is because Bally’s, the parent company of Bally Total Fitness, is partly owned by Sinclair.
But back to the streaming service. It’s a weird one, because you are basically going to be getting a separate streaming service for one channel. Most people only get one regional sports network in their area, you won’t see Bally Sports Detroit available in Los Angeles, or even Chicago. It’s possible, but very unlikely due to different contracts that are between sports leagues and other networks, that Sinclair could give every customer access to all 21 networks. But again, very unlikely.
How much will this streaming service cost?
Sinclair has not yet come out with a price for this service, but it is expected to launch in time for the baseball season in 2022. So that would mean March or April. Likely before then, so they can get the kinks worked out before Opening Day. But reports are that it plans to charge as much as $23 per month for this service.
That’s a lot of money. $23 to get essentially a single channel, in a separate app, to watch your favorite teams. That’s about a third of the price of YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Fubo TV. It’s also more expensive than Netflix’s most expensive plan.
Yes, I get it. Sports are expensive. These contracts are insanely expensive. Which is why Sling TV is so much cheaper than YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Fubo TV. In fact, it’s less than half the price. That is because it doesn’t offer many sports. Just ESPN and Fox Sports (not the regional networks, FS1 and FS2 only).
If the service was much cheaper, say under $10, it might be a better deal for consumers. But on the business side of things, it means that Sinclair would be losing money on the service.
NBA & MLB commissioners think it’s a bad idea
Both Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, and Rob Manfred, the MLB Commissioner spoke on this topic earlier this week. Silver was a bit nicer about it, but Manfred completely trashed Sinclair over this move.
Silver stated that “For now, clearly, the (cable) bundle’s broken. I mean, we’re seeing now an issue that’s very topical at the moment, our regional sports networks, Sinclair in particular, and we’re trying to work with them through the issues.” Silver also noted that the NBA’s younger demographic has declined 70%. That is likely all of those that are streaming TV these days and can’t watch anything but the primetime games, due to Sinclair’s greediness.
Manfred was a bit more blunt about Sinclair. Stating that they (the MLB) “have been clear with Diamond (Sports Group, the division of Sinclair that technically owns Bally Sports) from the very beginning, this was not a late starting issue. We’ve been very clear with them from the beginning that we see both those sets of rights as extraordinarily valuable to baseball, and we’re not just going to throw them in to help Sinclair out.”
Manfred also mentioned that Sinclair does not have enough digital rights from enough clubs in order to have a viable direct-to-consumer product.
That’s two commissioners from the three major sports leagues that rely on regional sports networks. Most RSNs only show MLB, NBA and the NHL live. They will show NFL and some NCAA games later on, but not generally live. Manfred and Silver are partners with Sinclair, and if they don’t think this is going to work, that’s a big deal.
Regional sports networks are necessary
RSNs are pretty necessary though. National sports channels are not able to show every single game from the NBA, MLB, NHL and the NFL. And with many switching over to streaming Live TV, that makes it even tougher to only allow games in certain areas, like the NFL does on Fox and CBS every Sunday.
The NBA for example, has 2,460 games every year – not counting the playoffs. And there’s more than double that number in baseball games every year. Again, not counting the playoffs. So how on earth could channels like ESPN, FS1 and FS2 broadcast all of those games? They can’t. Which makes regional sports networks a necessary evil. But they don’t need their own streaming service. Unless it gets bundled in with a larger sports network, like adding all the ESPN networks, then it could work.
Sinclair’s streaming service will probably fail
Sinclair was already pretty widely hated by a lot of people. But after they made the decision to remove Bally Sports networks off of the three largest streaming Live TV services – YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Hulu + Live TV – they’ve been getting even more hate. And there’s a lot of people that are not happy about Sinclair making its own streaming service.
Unless Sinclair does something very radical with this service, it’s likely going to be dead on arrival.
If you don’t like the idea of a Sinclair streaming service for Bally Sports, then make sure you vote with your wallet. That means not signing up for the service, or in the least bit, not paying for it. Meaning, just sign up for the free trial then leave. If Sinclair sees that so little people are signing up for and using their service, they will be forced to license it to YouTube TV, Fubo TV and Hulu + Live TV. Instead of making it a live service.
Sinclair is already massively in debt with this Bally Sports purchase. Around $8 billion in debt on a $9.6 billion purchase. Of course, sports being almost non-existent in 2020 did not help Sinclair there. And in 2020, Sinclair actually reported a loss of $3.2 billion in the third quarter. These RSNs are out there just floundering, because they aren’t growing and most people in the younger demographic are not able to watch them.
Let’s not forget that about half of the US wouldn’t even be able to access this streaming service. Since the RSNs that Sinclair owns are not available in about half of the country. That means the number of people that could subscribe is quickly down to less than 200 million. That’s going to mean off-setting costs will be much tougher. Likely why they are planning to charge so much for it.
I’m not usually this harsh with a new streaming service, but when you see the commissioners for some of the content that will be on that streaming service trashing it, you know it’s going to be bad.