Bally Sports channels pulled off lineup by Comcast

ByAlden Gonzalez ESPN logo
Thursday, May 2, 2024

Bally Sports channels carried by the distributor Comcast went dark at the start of May after Comcast and Bally's bankrupt operator, Diamond Sports Group, failed to agree on a new contract, leaving Major League Baseball fans throughout the country without the ability to watch their local teams.

Diamond Sports Group originally agreed to a six-month extension with Comcast in the fall but could not agree on a new multiyear contract by the time that deal expired on Tuesday night, prompting Comcast to pull its Bally Sports channels.

Diamond Sports Group has secured multiyear deals with its two largest distributors: Charter and, as of Wednesday, DirecTV. But it was also hoping to secure a deal with Comcast ahead of a June confirmation hearing in bankruptcy court. Not doing so could significantly jeopardize Diamond's ability to emerge from bankruptcy.

Diamond Sports Group, which originally filed for bankruptcy restructuring in March 2023, operates 18 networks, many of which were distributed by Comcast under the Xfinity brand. Diamond Sports Group maintains linear rights for the following 12 MLB teams: the Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Cleveland Guardians, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers.

Comcast's presence varies greatly throughout the aforementioned markets. Baseball fans in Southern California, for example, are impacted far less than those in the Southeast region of the United States. Diamond Sports Group maintains streaming rights for the Marlins, Rays, Royals and Tigers, giving fans of those teams an alternate viewing option. Local fans of the other eight teams who subscribe to Comcast are currently unable to watch games that are not picked up nationally.

MLB is unable to lift blackout restrictions for those teams through its streaming service, MLB.TV, because it would qualify as a breach of the teams' contracts with Diamond Sports Groups. MLB was only able to lift blackouts for the San Diego Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks once their deals fell through.

The impact is minimal to nonexistent for the NBA and the NHL at the moment, with both leagues in postseason play and national broadcasts transmitting games.

As part of a statement, a representative for Diamond Sports Group wrote: "It's disappointing that Comcast rejected a proposed extension that would have kept our channels on the air and that Comcast indicated that it intends to pull the signals, preventing fans from watching their favorite local teams. Comcast has refused to engage in substantive discussions despite Diamond offering terms similar to those reached with much larger distributors of ours. We are a fans-first company and will continue to seek an agreement with Comcast to restore broadcasts, and at this critical juncture for Diamond, we hope that Comcast will recognize the important and mutually beneficial role Diamond and [regional sports networks] play in the media ecosystem."

Comcast's desire to immediately place Bally Sports teams on a higher, more expensive tier is widely known throughout the industry and ultimately became a major impediment for a deal, sources familiar with the situation said. Comcast is currently offering customers $8 to $10 in credits per month as a result of not carrying Bally Sports channels.

In a statement, a Comcast representative wrote that the company has been "very flexible with Diamond Sports Group for months as they work through their bankruptcy proceedings, providing them with an extension on the Bally Sports Regional Networks last fall and a unilateral right to extend the term for another year, which they opted to not exercise. We'd like to continue carrying their networks, but they have declined multiple offers and now we no longer have the rights to this programming."

A representative for Diamond said the company is still open to negotiations.