There was a notable development in the Diamond Sports Group bankruptcy saga this evening. The court ruled in Major League Baseball’s favor on yesterday’s hearing regarding Diamond’s efforts to restructure a number of its local broadcasting deals.
The broadcasting conglomerate has temporarily been paying reduced rights fees (75%, according to Alden González of ESPN) to the Twins, Guardians, Diamondbacks, Reds and Rangers since filing for bankruptcy two and a half months ago. Diamond had sought a ruling that’d require the team to renegotiate their broadcasting contracts to more accurately align with the current market value of broadcasting rights — which has dropped sharply in recent years due to the rise of cord-cutting, contributing to Diamond’s bankruptcy filing.
That argument wasn’t persuasive to the court, which concluded that a change in the market “doesn’t mean the contract price is clearly unreasonable” (relayed by Evan Drellich of the Athletic). As a result, Diamond is now responsible for backpay to the five organizations it had been paying the reduced rate. According to González, the court hasn’t yet set the deadline for those payments. If Diamond fails to meet its responsibilities by whatever dates are ultimately chosen, MLB would have the ability to reclaim the broadcasting rights for those clubs from the Bally networks.
“MLB appreciates the ruling from the federal bankruptcy court in Houston requiring Diamond to pay the full contractual rate to clubs,” the league said in a statement relayed by González. “As always, we hope Diamond will continue to broadcast games and meet its contractual obligations to clubs.”
Diamond carried broadcasts for 14 major league teams entering the season. It forfeited the ability to carry Padres’ games earlier this week by opting not to meet a scheduled payment in that contract. MLB promptly took over in-market broadcasting and is making those games available both for streaming on MLB.TV and via other cable platforms. The league reiterated this evening it is prepared to do so for any other contracts which Diamond lets lapse. Today’s ruling increases the odds of Diamond abandoning other deals, though the corporation hasn’t announced any immediate plans to do so.