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MLB asks court to force Diamond to pay Twins, Guardians or lose TV rights

Apr 10, 2023
Illustration of baseball on top of a pile of money

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Diamond Sports Group could see its MLB roster trimmed by as many as three teams this week amid its escalating war over its baseball TV rights.

Why it matters: This is likely to be the first of multiple instances where a team's rights revert from Diamond back to Major League Baseball this season.

  • For fans of those teams, that means confusion over where and how they can watch those games. For the teams themselves, it's tens of millions in lost revenue.

State of play: MLB is seeking a court order to force Diamond to either pay the Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins the rights fees it owes those teams by Thursday or terminate those contracts.

  • MLB is arguing that Diamond is using its bankruptcy as cover to skip payments to those teams, since Diamond has continued to pay others.
  • "The Debtor RSNs made this decision even though they continue to use the Clubs' valuable intellectual property every day. By continuing to broadcast Guardians and Twins games, they generate postpetition revenue, yet boldly refuse to pay the Clubs," MLB said in an emergency motion that was filed last week.
  • If those rights contracts are terminated, MLB would step in and produce the games themselves. The games would be made available on its streaming network MLB.TV, and the league would have to negotiate its own carriage deals with pay-TV providers.

Between the lines: The Arizona Diamondbacks filed a separate motion seeking the same outcome; they're on a different track since their payment was skipped before Diamond filed for bankruptcy.

Of note: Diamond's current TV contract with the Twins was set to end after this season, and the team has reportedly been reluctant to renew that deal. The team gets more than $40 million a year from its deal with Bally Sports North.

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