Television broadcasts for the Arizona Diamondbacks have been turned over to Major League Baseball after a bankruptcy court judge approved Diamond Sports Group's "rejection" of its deal with the franchise. That marks two teams — after the San Diego Padres in May — who won't appear on the Bally Sports airwaves anymore.
Diamond, which operates a number of regional sports networks (RSNs) using the Bally Sports branding, entered bankruptcy in March, seemingly foretelling a future where the teams covered by Diamond won't appear on the network any longer. But we're past midway through the season and Arizona is only the second team to notice a change. So what's next for the Brewers broadcasts?
Could Brewers broadcasts be next to disappear from Bally Sports Wisconsin?
Almost certainly not.
The Padres were a bit of an outlier moving so quickly. San Diego's team ownership stake meant the Padres' specific situation was outside Diamond's bankruptcy filing, enabling San Diego to reclaim its broadcast rights so quickly after Diamond missed a payment. Even though Diamond was missing payments or making partial payments to other teams, a change in how games are broadcast would still have to wait for the bankruptcy court process.
Arizona went through that process and just now got the go-ahead to proceed with a different broadcast plan.
Diamond was also previously ordered to pay partial payments to the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Guardians, Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins, meaning those situations are providing greater stress on Diamond's operation. The Brewers are one of five teams (Tigers, Royals, Marlins, Rays) for whom Bally also has direct-to-consumer streaming rights.
Long story short: Don't expect the Brewers to be one of the next dominoes to fall. Expect them to be one of the last.
What happens now for Arizona fans?
Major League Baseball intimated that it was more than willing and ready to take over broadcasts when San Diego reclaimed its rights, and then proved it. Immediately, games were available on a number of outlets, including Charter, Spectrum, Cox, DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse. The number of homes that could see Padres games went up. Not only that, but fans inside San Diego's market could now buy the MLB.com app, and Padres games would no longer be blacked out for them.
That's good news for fans in Arizona (not to mention New Mexico, Utah and parts of southern Nevada) who had previously been blacked out from Diamondbacks games. Arizona games will also be available on Cox, DirecTV, Spectrum and XFinity outlets, plus Fubo and DirecTV Stream.
There are some small tweaks expected to the Arizona coverage plan, but that might be as simple as no pregame during road contests. The announcers, many of whom are employed already by the team, will largely stay the same.
In other words, Brewers fans should expect the games to be available instantly in other places if Diamond can no longer support Brewers broadcasts.
Will Brewers games be free if Diamond stops carrying them?
Possibly for a short transition time only through the MLB app.
How have Padres games looked since MLB took over in May?
Most reports say the transition has been seamless.
The graphics look different; you can judge how it looks for yourself by checking out Padres highlights on Twitter.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 19, 2023
Will a change in broadcaster hurt the teams' ability to pay players?
Major League Baseball has vowed to provide at least 80% of the broadcast rights that were offered in the RSN contract, though that's still a reasonably significant level of loss.
Is it possible Brewers games stay on Bally Sports Wisconsin next year … or beyond?
We're talking about the courts system, so yes, it's possible this lingers into next season. Distributors like Charter have also investigated ways to make the RSN situation continue to fly.
But the future of the regional sports network as a concept is pretty bleak and Major League Baseball has demonstrated how motivated it is to reclaim streaming rights, with an eye on someday being able to eliminate blackouts and offer its product to any household through its MLB app.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Broadcaster airing Milwaukee games lost second MLB team. Brewers next?