Apr 2, 2023 - Sports

Twins TV broadcast safe … until it’s not

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sunday's Twins game is broadcast on Bally Sports North, but that might not be the case by the end of the season.

Why it matters: The regional sports network (RSN) model, once a bedrock of the legacy TV business, is on its deathbed.

How we got here: The number of people who pay to watch Twins games on TV has declined dramatically over the past decade.

  • Bally Sports North (formerly Fox Sports North) saw its subscriber base drop from 2.6 million in 2018 to just 1.2 million in 2023, according to research by S&P Global Market Intelligence that was published in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
  • Cord cutting here and across the country coincided with a 22% decline in Diamond Sports revenues between 2019 and 2022, per the Biz Journal.

The big picture: Fans across the country in markets including Los Angeles, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Miami could see their favorite teams' broadcasts blown up midseason if MLB is able to wrestle control of those rights back due to Diamond's financial troubles, reports Axios' Tim Baysinger.

  • MLB is using Diamond's troubles as an opportunity to play a larger role in how its teams' games are broadcast.
  • The league eventually wants control over all 30 teams' local rights, based on the belief that the RSN model is irreparable.

The latest: Diamond will begin the season still carrying all 14 of its teams on its Bally Sports regional networks. It's an open question how many it will still have by October.

  • Diamond made its first payment to the San Diego Padres for the season; the company had until midnight Wednesday to do so or MLB would have been able to claw those rights back.
  • But not all fans are safe. Diamond, which has already skipped a payment to the Arizona Diamondbacks, has payments due for many of its other 12 MLB teams over the next 30 days.

Be smart: Since the Diamondbacks' payment was due before Diamond entered bankruptcy, MLB cannot do anything until the next missed payment to that club, which is due this summer, multiple sources have told Axios.

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