KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the Major League Baseball season kicking off less than six weeks away, there are questions about how you’ll be able to watch the Kansas City Royals play this season.
Bally Sports’ parent company, Diamond Sports Group, says it is billions of dollars in debt.
That figure was $8.6 billion at the conclusion of last season. This week he skipped interest payments owed to teams like the Royals, setting off a countdown that could change Royals broadcasting as we know it.
After missing $140 million in interest payments, Bally Sports’ parent company has 30 days to avoid bankruptcy. This could affect 14 major league teams, including the Royals, which could cancel their contracts with the broadcaster.
The tricky part is that there’s less than two weeks between the end of that grace period and the Royals’ opening day.
University of Kansas Journalism and Mass Communications Asst. Professor Chris Etheridge says Bally Sports’ problems stem from the big changes in how fans consume sports that have emerged in just the three seasons since the Sinclair Broadcasting subsidiary took over the broadcast duties of Royals, the sports streaming it doubled.
“That’s why a company like Bally is really struggling because it relies on cable subscribers to fund most of its operations,” Etheridge said.
Without as much from traditional revenue, Bally appears to have struggled to get enough fans to sign up for their $20 monthly streaming service. It owes $1 billion in royalty payments primarily to baseball teams in the first quarter of this year.
The Royals said in a statement Friday, “MLB has focused on this and has put in place a number of contingencies to make sure fans have access to our games. We’ve had numerous conversations with MLB and there is no higher priority.”
The MLB commissioner spoke about what Wednesday might look like with the league possibly taking over broadcast duties for teams like the Royals.
“We think it will be both linear in the traditional cable bundle and digital on our platforms, but that remains to be seen,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
“It looks like MLB has short-term fixes in place, so you’ll be able to watch games, but long-term how revenue will recover for many of these teams in 14 out of 30 markets there’s a lot of question marks there,” Etheridge said.
All at a time when the Royals plan to eventually fund part of a downtown stadium and baseball village.
Despite the uncertainty, Etheridge says, “they’ll figure out how to get their product into your home. It might look a little different, but they’re interested in keeping us all as fans.”