Why regional sports networks are failing


Harrison Wetzel, Staff Writer

Let’s create an image here. You like basketball right? Yes. Do you have a favorite team? Yes. Is that team your local team? Yes. Great! Well, with a hefty price, and a satellite in your backyard you’ll have the opportunity to watch any of your favorite local teams. Oh, but you ask what happens if you don’t have cable? Well, lucky you. You’re able to watch every other team BUT your own local team! What a steal.  How did this happen? What’s the root of this problem? And  most importantly what’s the solution?

Before the current dominance of Bally Sports over RSN’s, Fox Sports owned the TV rights of many small market teams. But when Disney purchased the rights to Fox, the federal government forced Fox Sports, to sell the rights of 42 teams, from the MLB, NBA, and NHL. But after the purchase, Disney was considered a monopoly and was forced to sell the rights.  And at this moment you can argue this is the death of regional sports networks.

Now you might think that Bally Sports was Fox Sports all over again, just with a new logo on the side of your TV, and a new scoreboard. But once the Diamond Sports Group (the parent company of Bally’s), began their initial fee for platforms to stream their games, many streaming services backed out. And this was the catch, and why everything failed. Prior to Bally’s being in charge, Fox Sports was actively available on major  live TV streaming services such as YouTube TV, and Hulu live. But as Bally’s became in control, they were charging a fee to these two services, that they simply couldn’t afford with only charging customers around $70. Which hence, put everything back to square one and allowed only cable companies to stream their games. Now many sports leagues have their own streaming channels that allow fans to purchase a subscription which in turn, gives them access to any out-of-market team. (NBA league pass, MLB TV, and NHL center ice.) But like I said only out-of-market teams. So a fan in Indiana which is a Pacers fan, can have access to every other team’s games but the Pacers. And when buying these league passes, all Pacers games or any in-market team has the dreaded word blackout scribbled across them.

So, what could be the solution? In my mind leagues make this overly complicated than it has ever needed to be. For starters a league has the rights to every one of their own teams. The NBA obviously has the rights to the NBA, so why not make a platform that allows fans to buy the league pass, but have access to a fans in-market team. You can up the price a little bit, but in my mind that’s well worth never having to stress about if your favorite will be available. Another simplification we’ve seen is many large cities just start their own streaming services that host the local teams. (LA, New York, Philadelphia, Boston). And while this does work very well for fans in the areas I listed, it just makes it unreasonable for many smaller cities. A service for just the Pacers, or just the Jazz (teams without anyone else in the area, NFL doesn’t apply) would be a ridiculous task to set up. In my mind, the answer is clear as day, let the leagues be in charge of the league.