Sinclair denies a report that sports federations could buy its sports broadcasting unit and says it will launch new streaming platforms next week

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the owner of Hunt Valley-based television station, has denied a report that it is trying to sell its Diamond Sports unit to three professional sports leagues, though plans were confirmed Thursday to launch new regional sports broadcasting services. across the country next week.

Sinclair bought regional sports networks for $10.6 billion in 2019, but they have been hit hard by pandemic-related disruptions and “wire-cuts,” as many fans have abandoned traditional cable channels.

Sinclair Diamond cut its financials earlier this year, put them into a separate unit, and reportedly hired investment bankers this summer to evaluate options for the sports broadcasting business. Diamond owns 19 regional sports network from Bally Sports, formerly Fox Regional Sports Networks.

In her statement Thursday, Sinclair dismissed a New York Post report that Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League may orchestrate the Diamond purchase deal.

The newspaper said Diamond, “was bleeding cash and could be heading for a potential bankruptcy file if he doesn’t find a white knight in the coming months.”

In her response, Sinclair said that “the speculation raised by anonymous sources is pure speculation”.

The company said it is moving forward with the “full launch of our direct-to-consumer product on September 26th heading into the start of the NBA/NHL regular seasons.” He said he has the “full support” of the teams and the two leagues.

In a written statement Thursday, Sinclair said Diamond will launch “Bally Plus” — a direct-to-consumer streaming service — in 14 NBA and NHL markets Monday before the basketball and hockey seasons open.

Diamond launched similar broadcast options in June in the markets of five major baseball teams: Tampa Bay, Miami, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Detroit. But — because Diamond has only received broadcasting rights from those five teams — its shows are limited in the summer when baseball is the dominant sport.

An MLB spokesperson declined to comment on Thursday.

The Orioles and Washington Nationals games are broadcast locally by Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, of which the Orioles are majority owned. MASN can only be broadcast as part of a broader subscription package that includes the network.

Sinclair Broadcast Group President and CEO Chris Ripley said in June that the launch of “Bally Plus” streaming services this fall marks an important turning point for the company.

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“We’re going to be serving a large number of fans and it’s already out of the pay TV package,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “And this is where the real innovation will happen.”

Ripley said he envisioned services becoming increasingly interactive by, for example, allowing audiences to socialize online, buy tickets or gamble in states where sports betting is legal.

Karel Leggio, a professor of finance at Loyola University in Maryland, said the company still needs to overcome the continuing effects of network overpayment in 2019.

“This seems to be a case of the winner’s curse,” said Leggio. Sinclair has overpaid for the rights to broadcast regional sports at a time when umbilical cord cutting has been on the rise. Sinclair did not accurately predict the impact of non-cable customers on its revenue model.”

Leggio said sports leagues are in a position to receive “low bargaining prices” for local broadcasting rights.

He said the leagues “could get a very good deal on buying the rights to regional sports. This is a distressed selling case.”

Sinclair shares closed down 90 cents each Thursday at $20.92 a share, less than half of what they were after the company bought the sports networks in 2019.

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