SAN DIEGO – Major League Baseball will take over broadcasts of San Diego Padres games Wednesday after Diamond Sports missed a rights fees payment to the regional sports network’s parent company and let a grace period expire.
Diamond Sports owns 19 regional sports networks under the Bally Sports banner, including Bally Sports Midwest for St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues broadcasts.
The Padres are the first team to switch to a system in which MLB takes over production of game broadcasts. As part of that arrangement, MLB will also offer a direct-to-consumer streaming subscription of Padres broadcasts for $19.99 per month or $74.99 for the rest of the season by registering at MLB.TV.
The DTC option would also eliminate blackout rules that were in place for Padres games previously aired on Bally Sports San Diego. MLB and Padres executives are hopeful this could expand the reach of their games by more than 2 million homes.
“We have been preparing for this groundbreaking moment,” Padres CEO Erik Greupner said in a statement. “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.”
What might this mean for the St. Louis Cardinals? Bill DeWitt Jr. and Bill DeWitt III told FOX 2 earlier this year, prior to the bankruptcy, that the Cardinals ownership was aware of potential changes to streaming and that MLB would work on a contingency plan, as the league has for the Padres.
“I think things are definitely going to change. MLB is on the case,” said DeWitt Jr. in January. “I think you’ll see, I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but not too long of a period of time, it’s going to be a different delivery system where everyone will have an opportunity to watch Cardinal baseball.”
The Padres new plan also allows fans to watch games through five different providers (DirecTV, Cox, Spectrum, AT&T U-Verse and fubo), some of the same providers that offer Cardinals games. The biggest difference comes to using MLB.TV. Anyone subscribed to the service in the St. Louis DMA is subject to local blackout restrictions, a longtime concern of fans and franchises alike. That is no longer the case for the Padres.
Team revenue is another consideration before any potential change involving the Cardinals. The franchise is nearly halfway through a TV-partner contract with Bally Sports Midwest that, currently standing, pays the team $1 billion through 2032.
The Cardinals, like the Padres, are minority owners in their Diamond Sports RSN, which could enable ownership to explore a DTC streaming option in the case of missed payments. According to Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there reportedly haven’t been any missed payments to the Cardinals, so “nothing appears imminent.”
According to the Associated Press, there will be a court hearing Wednesday as to whether Diamond Sports can reduce its rights fees payments to the Cleveland Guardians, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks. If not, those teams could be the the next to adapt to a streaming model like the Padres inherited from MLB.
With the Padres off Bally Sports, Diamond has the rights to 40 professional teams, including the Cardinals and 12 other baseball teams, along with a combined 27 NBA and NHL teams.