The Diamond Sports Group, which heads up the Bally Sports Networks, is currently in Bankruptcy court. While the Cincinnati Reds do broadcast their games on Bally Sports Ohio, that leg of the Bally Sports networks is not included in the bankruptcy proceedings since it is partially owned by the Reds (a few other Bally Sports regional networks are also excluded because teams are partial owners). But with the proceedings taking place we are learning a lot about the plans for the future of the networks, even if there does seem to be some disagreements between Diamond Sports Groups and some of the leagues they own the broadcast rights for.
Several times in the last year we had heard that the Reds were among a few teams that Bally Sports was considering to drop and give the broadcast rights back to the team and Major League Baseball. That didn’t wind up happening. While the ratings don’t exactly make or break the deal, the ratings for Cincinnati’s games were better than most as they had the 4th highest ratings among the 29 teams located in the US (the Blue Jays ratings are not shared so we do not have data for them). Even in 2022 when the team struggled they were in the top half of the league in ratings. But given how many households are in Cincinnati, even high ratings don’t mean tons of eyes by comparison to some of the big market teams.
Bally Sports plans to broadcast games next season for “almost all of (our) Major League Baseball teams next year,” said one of their lawyers in court on Wednesday according to a report from The Athletic. The two teams that seem to be not included in that, of 11, are the Guardians and the Rangers. Bally Sports is attempting to negotiate with them to lower the fee they would pay to keep their games through 2024, but nothing is in place.
Baseball isn’t the only game in town for many of the Bally Sports networks. They have rights for NBA and NHL teams in many markets. Yesterday a deal was approved between 15 NBA teams and Bally Sports to broadcast their games through the current season before the teams and NBA would regain the rights moving forward. The NHL is still working a deal with them, but according to a lawyer at the hearings it’s expected to be completed next week.
Major League Baseball, however, doesn’t seem to be on the same ground as the other two leagues. They want more defined plan than what is being offered up by Bally Sports and Diamond Sports Group right now. And they want that plan fast because they believe that they need several months to set things up if they have to take over the broadcasts for multiple teams 2024 seasons. They want to avoid what happened to multiple teams in 2023 when Bally Sports failed to make their payments on time before deciding in a grace-period window to either keep broadcasting games by making a payment or to give the rights back to the teams.
So how does this all factor in with the Cincinnati Reds? Well, it appears that if nothing else, everything points towards their games remaining on Bally Sports Ohio no later than the end of 2024. While no one really knows at this point where things would go from there, it does feel like there’s at least some finality in there.
There’s not just uncertainty with where the games will wind up, but with what this will do to the revenue for the clubs around the game. This is perhaps even more important to a team like Cincinnati which had a partial ownership stake in Bally Sports. Of course it’s also very possible that the team never included any money made from that partnership in baseball revenues or spending. But even if that’s the case, not knowing how much money will be coming in from local broadcasts can and will make many teams be hesitant to push spending.
In Cincinnati’s case their current payroll is so low that they should be able to spend quite a bit before getting into any sort of “questionable” area when it comes to future payroll. Still, that could provide them with some “cover” if they don’t go out this offseason and try to add talent on the free agent market.
Teams around baseball don’t make their books public. And historically it’s been for good reason – they tend to lie to the public about how much money they’ve been bringing in. Multiple leaks over the years have shown that to be true. But one team is a part of a publicly traded company. Atlanta’s got to open up their books, at least for the most part, and the third quarter of 2023 results came in.
Rob Mains of Baseball Prospectus took a look at what the numbers said and for Atlanta, things were very, very profitable. While he gets into many of the numbers for the team and where the money is coming in from, as well as the real estate holdings and how much money those are making for the club, there was something else that caught his eye – and mine too.
When the league sold the Montreal Expos in 2006 they used the money from the sale to invest in a hedge fund. Atlanta’s return in the third quarter of 2023 on that was $739,000. They also got $9,800,000 from MLB Advanced Media. Since all teams are in on both of those things, it’s fair to speculate that the Reds got those dollars as well.
There’s plenty in the article worth knowing about, so click the link above and give it a read (subscription to Baseball Prospectus required).
Three former Reds
On Wednesday night the Cy Young Awards were handed out. No current Cincinnati Reds pitcher got a vote. But three former Cincinnati Reds pitchers finished in the top five in the American League voting. Sonny Gray, who is now a free agent after spending last season with the Minnesota Twins, came in second. Kevin Gausman, who was with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2023 finished in third place. And Luis Castillo, now with the Seattle Mariners, finished in fifth place in the voting. Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees was unanimously voted as the winner.