Daniel Camarena of the San Diego Padres hits a grand slam during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park in San Diego, July 8, 2021.
Denis Poroy | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
The San Diego Padres have a new home base on TV.
Major League Baseball will broadcast and produce the team’s local games beginning Wednesday, after the owner of Bally Sports San Diego, its regional sports network for local in-market games, dropped the team.
Diamond Sports, which filed for bankruptcy in March, said its Bally Sports San Diego would air its last Padres game Tuesday after it opted not to make further rights payments to the team. The move comes as Diamond pushes for the direct-to-consumer streaming rights for all MLB teams that air on its regional sports networks.
“MLB has forced our hand by 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,” a Diamond spokesperson said in a statement. The company has noted it has significant liquidity and is still able to make rights payments and air other MLB teams in its portfolio.
MLB announced it would take over beginning with the Padres game against the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. Fans in the Padres’ market will be able to watch games on cable TV or through the league’s MLB.TV streaming app for $19.99 a month or $74.99 for the rest of the season.
“As Commissioner Manfred previously stated, Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute Padres games to fans throughout Padres territory,” said Noah Garden, MLB chief revenue officer, in a release. “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.”
The MLB takeover means local Padres games will no longer be subject to a blackout on MLB.TV, as is the case for other local teams. MLB added it would make games free through June 4 with a MLB login at MLB.com, Padres.com or in MLB apps.
On cable TV, Padres games will be available through four providers: Charter Communications‘ Spectrum, Cox Communications, DirecTV and AT&T U-verse. MLB said it would increase the reach of local Padres games from about 1.13 million homes to roughly 3.3 million homes.
Bally Sports San Diego is backed by a joint ownership between Diamond and the team. The Padres signed a 20-year, $1.2 billion contract with Fox Sports in 2012.
When Disney acquired assets from Fox, it had to offload the Fox Sports networks. Disney sold the networks, later rebranded as Bally Sports, to Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2019 for $10.6 billion, which included roughly $8 billion in debt.
The debt load has hobbled the networks since then. Diamond is now an unconsolidated and independently run subsidiary of Sinclair.
Streaming rights for MLB teams have been a particular sticking point between Diamond and the league for some time now. While Diamond had obtained streaming rights for all NBA and NHL teams it airs on its regional sports networks, it had been working on a team-by-team basis in the MLB.
In earlier months, Diamond had skipped payments for other MLB teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, in a push to obtain the streaming rights. Diamond owns 19 regional sports networks under the Bally Sports brand.
Diamond was forced earlier in the bankruptcy case to make partial payments to the teams it had stopped paying.