Once titans in the sports and TV industries, regional sports networks have run into financial difficulties in recent years. Now, another conglomerate is set to break down. Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns AT&T Sportsnet, has reportedly asked professional sports teams to buy back the broadcast rights. The reason: it plans to leave the RSN business. So, which MLB teams are affected? Let’s take a look.
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MLB Teams with AT&T Sportsnet
As of 2023, there are four teams that have game broadcast by networks with the AT&T Sportsnet/Root Sports branding. Those teams are:
- Colorado Rockies
- Houston Astros
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Seattle Mariners*
In February 2023, the Sports Business Journal broke that Warner Bros., which owns these regional networks, have asked Major League Baseball and other teams & leagues that have deals with those channels to buy back the broadcast rights. The reason is that Warner has decided to exit the regional sports network (RSN) business. Otherwise, the networks will file for Chapter 7 liquidation.
Warner Bros. is asking MLB and the Rockies, Pirates, and Astros to buy back the broadcast rights for those teams. Ownership of these networks is being offered to the teams for “no purchase price consideration beyond a release by the teams of any future claims against the networks.” Teams will be offered the same production staff and equipment for broadcasting future games.
The company owns a minority stake in the network — Root Sports Northwest — that owns broadcast rights for the Mariners, which will not be impacted by this decision.
This comes on the heels of Diamond Sports Group, the company that owns Bally Sports, is set to go bankrupt — a move that will leave over a dozen MLB teams and many other pro sports teams in limbo. Much of this has to do with cord-cutting, which has led to a decrease in revenue. Plus, the COVID pandemic and subsequent shutdowns of sports leagues in 2020 proved that the once-powerhouses in the TV industry are actually quite vulnerable from a financial standpoint.
The question now becomes this: what will MLB do to counter-act this situation? Given that half of MLB’s teams are set to be affected by the Bally Sports/AT&T Sportsnet debacles, it could open up the avenue for the league to further dip its toes into the world of streaming.
It’s already done so in recent years, as MLB games have aired on Facebook, YouTube, Apple TV, and NBC’s Peacock since the start of 2018. But, it’s possible that these moves could lead to an acceleration of the process.