In their earnings report on Wednesday, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns Bally Sports Kansas City and several other regional sports networks, announced they are moving closer to offering a streaming-only option to watch sports. CEO Chris Ripley referred to the service as “Bally Sports+” and would be offered to customers for $19.99 per month or $189.99 annually. They plan to have a “soft launch” this quarter, which means cord-cutting Royals fans could tune in this summer to watch Bobby Witt Jr. According to previous reporting by the New York Post, the streaming option would be available only to fans in the market where broadcast rights are available (sorry Iowa).
The price point is a bit steep, especially when compared to MLB.TV, which gives coverage to all teams (subject to blackout restrictions) at a price point of $24.99 per month. But it does give cord-cutting fans another option, where the only current way to stream games without a cable or satellite subscription is through DirecTV Stream at $79.99 per month for the introductory rate.
Why doesn’t Sinclair simply work out a deal with other streaming options like YouTubeTV and Hulu? Perhaps they would, but only on their terms. Sinclair is known for being a tough negotiator, and have asked for carriage fees that the streaming channels are unwilling to pay. Cutting off access to other streaming channels also diverts customers to their own direct-to-consumer offering - Bally Sports+.
What does this mean for the Royals? Well there is hope that they can get their games in front of more fans by this summer. It remains to be seen how many fans are willing to shell out $20 a month to watch this team, but it does give another option for those unwilling to go back to cable. But the arrangement with Sinclair has turned off a lot of fans who are unable to watch games. And it’s not just in Kansas City, this has been an issue in many other cities, as expressed by Twins President Dave St. Peter.
“We’re concerned about it. We continue to have regular conversations with Sinclair leadership, both locally and nationally, as does Major League Baseball,” Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter said. “This isn’t just in Minnesota. This is going on across the country. It’s an issue for MLB. It’s certainly an issue for the NHL and the National Basketball Association. It’s not just baseball.”
The Bally Sports Kansas City broadcast has also been beset by technical issues, such as ending the broadcast if it runs long, like it did for an extra inning game last week against the White Sox. Sinclair has a reputation for running things on the cheap, which has seemingly seeped into some of its broadcasts. Ripley has also talked about integrating more gambling features in broadcasts
“For a person who is heavily engaged in sports betting, I envision a significant amount of income coming from watch-and-play, which is the gamification, real-time gamification of a sporting event, where they can play it like a video game,” Ripley said. “They can be having at risk at … money on the line, positions that are changing … every 10 to 20 seconds, based on their actions.
Sinclair purchased Bally Sports Kansas City (formerly known as Fox Sports Kansas City) and 21 other regional sports networks in 2019 for $9.6 billion. The Royals signed a long-term deal with the regional sports network in 2020. In addition to the Royals, Sinclair is developing streaming service for fans of the Rays, Marlins Tigers, and Brewers. Sinclair is also working with the Cubs on a streaming service for Marquee Sports Network for 2023.
Would you pay $19.99 per month for Bally Sports+?
This poll is closed