While the 2024 Major League Baseball season starts to draw closer, one of the main questions of the offseason had remained unanswered. With Diamond Sports, the company that owns the Bally Sports and other regional broadcast rights, going through bankruptcy proceedings and proposing restructuring plans, it has remained a mystery whether the various networks would be operational this year, or if alternate plans, like a full move to MLB.tv streaming, would be necessary.
Big news broke on Wednesday as it was widely reported that Diamond has reached a $450M plan with its creditors to allow it continue operating through 2024 and beyond. Sources on the arrangement added that as part of the deal, Amazon would contribute $115M and potentially up to another $50M beyond that for rights to broadcast teams currently owned by Diamond Sports teams. Numerous other clubs, like the Yankees and Dodgers, control their own rights. There are 11 MLB clubs, including the Detroit Tigers, with rights owned by Diamond Sports currently.
The NBA and NHL were negotiating over the future of those rights separately from MLB, and had already reached agreements for 2024, while MLB was still up in the air. Now the NBA and NHL deals would be scrapped, presumably with some amount of their franchises moving to Amazon Prime instead of the Bally Sports streaming services under the Diamond banner. MLB hadn’t even gotten that far and their mediation is being handled by a different bankruptcy judge that the other two sports leagues.
The plan they were developing would’ve seen Diamond broadcast those 11 MLB teams in 2024, perhaps with expanded digital right included, as well as the Minnesota Twins, whose deal expired after last season. After that point, teams would get their rights back for 2025, with the widespread expectation that MLB might simply broadcast those teams via MLB.tv and maintain control of those 12 teams rights internally. Now, everything is up in the air again.
The proposed new deal would theoretically include the Tigers, Angels, Brewers, Braves, Cardinals, Marlins, Rays, Reds, and the Royals, and would allow Diamond to maintain its long-term deals with those clubs, while the Guardians and Rangers might have the ability to opt-out, and the Twins remain “free agents” at this point. Diamond already owns the digital rights for the Tigers, Brewers, Marlins, Rays, and Royals, with a new deal likely to include the digital rights for the other clubs mentioned as well.
So does this mean that the Tigers will be on Amazon Prime streaming this spring? And what would that look like? Presumably, even if the deal goes through, we’re not just going to get all the Tigers games for the price of regular Amazon Prime. And would this bypass the blackout problem with games still being broadcast on cable via Diamond’s Bally Sports regional sports networks?
Not so fast. As it turns out, the tentative agreements announced today involved no consultation with MLB leadership. So to actually sort out who gets the rights to what, and how broadcast services would be charged and received, is still far from a done deal, and that’s assuming the plan announced today actually comes to fruition.
With as much news as emerged today, we’re still pretty far from certainly as to how this is going to work in 2024 and beyond. Let’s just say you may want to hold off your MLB.tv renewals until some actual clarity emerges.
One thing we do know about Tigers broadcasts, is that they have new play-by-play man Jason Benetti and the voice of Tigers radio, Dan Dickerson, under contract with the team rather than with the network. So whatever it looks like, and however you end up receiving the broadcasts, at least the personalities aren’t going to change.