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As standalone Bally Sports app prepares to launch, does chaos threaten viewers?


Two frustrating years for fans of cutting sports should come to an end, at least in part and at least for now, on Monday.

That’s when Bally Sports is set to launch a new standalone app, giving fans in the market access to the regional sports networks they lost when streaming services like Hulu and YouTube TV abandoned them on the go. fall 2020.

For Minnesota sports fans, $19.99 per month will provide access to all Wolves and Savages games this season on Bally Sports North. Twins, it should be noted, are not yet available through the standalone app.

But the launch of the app also brings a new set of questions. And it comes at a time when Diamond Sports – which operates Bally’s 21 regional sports networks and is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group – would be under enough financial strain to be forced into bankruptcy.

In this scenario. the three major professional sports leagues most closely tied to RSNs — the NBA, NHL and MLB — could end up buying Diamond Sports and running the operation, the New York Post reported this week.

What all of this means for sports fans is a fascinating question. Jason Gurwin from The Streamable joined me on the Daily Delivery podcast on Thursday with some great insights and ideas.

Regarding the price of Bally Sports’ standalone monthly subscription, Gurwin said he thinks $19.99 strikes a reasonable balance between cable and consumer satisfaction. He said the company’s relative success or failure will depend more on quality than price.

“It will depend on the actual quality of the product,” Gurwin said, noting that there have been several user complaints about the existing Bally Sports app. “I don’t think the $19.99 price tag is that prohibitive for a fan who cut the cord. … It’s a decent alternative.”

But Diamond Sports and the Bally RSNs have much bigger problems — problems that Gurwin says won’t be solved simply by adding a standalone streaming option.

“I don’t think a direct-to-consumer service will ultimately save them, even if it’s successful,” Gurwin said, “mainly because direct-to-consumer is a worse business than cable. silver with the wire harness.

And that package dwindled for a variety of reasons, leading to what Gurwin called a “death spiral” and leaving Sinclair in a precarious position less than four years after winning an offer to buy Fox Sports’ RSNs for 10, $6 billion.

“They’re in a very tough spot. They’ve got billions of dollars in debt, and now they’re only making hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. And the leagues are in a tough spot because they’re very tied to Bally Sports.” , Gurwin said, noting that in the New York Post report, it was suggested that part of the contract with Bally’s stipulates that they do not have to pay rights fees to the leagues if they are bankrupt. “It’s really bad for the leagues.”

Would it be a good thing for the NBA, NHL and MLB to essentially take back control and operations of regional sports properties?

That too is complicated. It wouldn’t necessarily be a better business model for the leagues. Conversely, if it worked financially for the leagues, it might not be great for the fans.

“It may end up being great for the fans in that the games may end up being more accessible, but for it to be a win for the fans, the leagues have to say we’re willing to give up the money. that we won in the past,” Gurwin said. “I’m not sure the players will let that happen. In one of these revenue-sharing leagues, lower media rights mean lower salary caps and less money in players’ pockets.”

Perhaps in the event of a takeover, the leagues would be ready to get creative to create some stability in a world of sports observation that has become unstable in recent years.

Or maybe the chaos is just beginning even as a temporary solution emerges on Monday.

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