KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the start of the Major League Baseball season less than six weeks away, there are questions about how you’ll be able to watch the Kansas City Royals play this season.
The parent company of Bally Sports, Diamond Sports Group, said it’s billions of dollars in debt.
That figure stood at $8.6 billion at the conclusion of last season. This week it skipped interest payments owed to teams like the Royals triggering a countdown clock that could change Royals broadcasts as we know them.
After missing that $140 million interest payment the parent company of Bally Sports has 30 days to avoid bankruptcy. That could affect 14 Major League Teams including the Royals who could cancel contracts with the broadcaster.
The tricky part is there’s less than two weeks between the end of that grace period and Royals opening day.
University of Kansas Journalism and Mass Communications Asst. Professor Chris Etheridge says Bally Sports problems stem from the major changes in the way fans consume sports that have transpired in just the three seasons since the Sinclair Broadcasting subsidiary took over Royals broadcast duties, sports streaming has doubled.
“Which is why a company like Bally is really struggling because they rely on cable subscribers to fund most of their operations,” Etheridge said.
Without as much from traditional revenues, Bally seems to have struggled to get enough fans to sign up for their $20 monthly streaming service. It owes $1 billion in rights payments mostly to baseball teams in the first quarter of this year.
The Royals said in a statement Friday “MLB has been focused on this and has a variety of contingencies in place to make sure fans have access to our games. We’ve had numerous conversations with MLB, and there is no higher priority.”
MLB’s Commissioner talked about what that could look like Wednesday 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 digitally on our own platforms, but that remains to be seen,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.
“It looks like MLB has short term solutions in place so you’ll be able to watch the games but long term how they are going to recover the revenue for a lot of these teams 14 markets out of the 30 there are a lot of question marks there,” Etheridge said.
All at a time as the Royals make plans to possibly fund part of a downtown stadium and ballpark village.
Despite the uncertainty, Etheridge says, “they’ll figure out how to get their product into your home. It might look a little bit different, but they are interested in keeping us all as fans.”