MLB To Produce, Distribute All San Diego Padres Games Starting Tonight Following Diamond’s Missed Rights-Fee Payment
Much of the freelance crew and the announcers will continue with the production
The next domino in the Diamond Sports Group saga has fallen. Starting tonight, Major League Baseball will take over production and distribution of all San Diego Padres locally distributed games. The transition comes after Diamond Sports Group (DSG), which operates Bally Sports’ 19 regional sports networks, missed a rights-fee payment to the team and let the grace period expire. The new arrangement, which kicks off with the Padres’ matchup against the Marlins in Miami tonight, gives fans the option to watch on television via multiple MVPDs or stream via a new DTC service hosted by MLB.TV.
MLB will deploy much of the same freelance production crew as well as the same announcers, who are employed by the team. Mobile TV Group has been tapped by MLB to provide live production services, including mobile unit 44FLEX & 44VMU. MLB EVP, Local Media, Billy Chambers says the league aims to “elevate the game-broadcast experience for all Padres fans [through] new technology, better picture quality, and increased access.”
The league has agreed to deals allowing local cable operators DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse, Cox, Spectrum, and FuboTV to carry Padres games. The move expands the reach of Padres games from 1.130 million homes to 3.264 million homes in the Padres’ home television territory, marking a 189% jump in reach.
In addition, Padres fans can obtain a new direct-to-consumer streaming subscription for $19.99 per month or $74.99 for the rest of the season by registering at MLB.TV. The offer is only for Padres fans in the home television territory and is separate from the MLB.TV out-of-market package. Offering a direct-to-consumer streaming option on MLB.TV in the club’s territory for the first time, MLB is able to lift the blackout for Padres games previously distributed on Bally Sports San Diego. Games played through Sunday, June 4 will be available for free with MLB login at MLB.com and Padres.com and in the MLB apps on mobile and connected devices.
Diamond filed for bankruptcy in March and is in the midst of negotiations with the league and its teams to get access to more streaming rights. The new arrangement brings a sudden end to Bally Sports San Diego’s 20-year, $1.2 billion rights deal to broadcast Padres game through 2032. According to SportsBusiness Journal, Diamond committed to pay its full rights fees over the lifetime of its contracts in exchange for streaming rights.
In a statement, DSG says the company has “decided not to provide additional funding to the San Diego RSN that would enable it to make the rights payment to the San Diego Padres during the grace period and will no longer be broadcasting Padres games after Tuesday, May 30. While DSG has significant liquidity and has been making rights payments to teams, the economics of the Padres’ contract were not aligned with the market realities. MLB forced our hand with its continued refusal to negotiate direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming rights for all teams in our portfolio despite our proposal to pay every team in full in exchange for those rights. We are continuing to broadcast games for teams under our contracts.”
As DSG’s bankruptcy process proceeds, the company is expected to terminate contracts, such as with the Padres, where it loses money. This year, the league launched a local-media department led by Billy Chambers and including industry veterans Doug Johnson, Greg Pennell, and Kendall Burgess to oversee MLB’s local-media production, operations, and distribution moving forward.
“As Commissioner Manfred previously stated,” says MLB Chief Revenue Officer Noah Garden, “Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute Padres games to fans throughout Padres territory. While we’re disappointed that Diamond Sports Group failed to live up to their contractual agreement with the club, we are taking this opportunity to reimagine the distribution model, remove blackouts on local games, improve the telecast, and expand the reach of Padres games by more than 2 million homes.”
Says Padres CEO Erik Greupner, “We have been preparing for this groundbreaking moment. The Padres are excited to be the first team to partner with Major League Baseball to offer a direct-to-consumer streaming option through MLB.TV without blackouts while preserving our in-market distribution through traditional cable and satellite television providers. Our fans will now have unprecedented access to Padres games through both digital and traditional platforms throughout San Diego and beyond.”