The regional sports network landscape changed again this week with the departure of Warner/Discovery from the RSN business, something that company had previously announced would happen at the end of this year.
Per Daniel Frankel of NextTV, this is what’s happening next:
Baseball’s Houston Astros and the NBA’s Houston Rockets have acquired AT&T SportsNet Southwest from Warner Bros Discovery and will relaunch the channel Tuesday as the “Space City Home Network.”
The move completes the media conglomerate’s exit from the regional sports networks (RSN) business, reluctantly foisted upon WBD when it, in turn, foisted the highly leveraged merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery upon all of us 18 months ago.
Last month, WBD sold AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh to Fenway Sports Group, owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
Earlier, WBD announced the abandonment of AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, which had been the RSN home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. (Both teams have announced local broadcast TV deals and new DTC streaming platforms.)
This is added to the Padres and Diamondbacks both leaving Bally Sports, which had not made payments to those teams earlier this year. Like the AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain deal, those two MLB teams now have their own streaming/cable broadcasts that are produced by MLB Network.
With the Astros now part-owner of their own RSN, they join the Cubs, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Red Sox as owners of their own channel. The Pirates (Fenway Sports Group, as noted above) have a new deal as well. AT&T Sports Rocky Mountain also carried Rockies games, and according to this article, the Rockies do not yet have a new deal:
According to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post, the regional sports network will be shutting down on Oct. 6, leaving the Rockies temporarily without a TV home. The 2023 season concludes on Oct. 1, so they’ll have several months in the offseason to figure out what’s next.
One option that’s been recently reported is Altitude TV. That network is owned by Stan Kroenke and shows the Avalanche, Nuggets and Mammoth. The problem is Altitude is in an ongoing dispute with Comcast, which is the cable provider for the majority of the Denver market.
So that’ll be fun. It also leaves the potential move of the A’s to Las Vegas without a broadcast outlet, and they’d likely be up for a deal like the Padres and Diamondbacks have — although in a much smaller TV market. Per this ranking, Phoenix is the No. 11 TV market, San Diego 30th and Las Vegas 40th.
There is no question that this sort of thing is only going to accelerate next year. It seems likely that the dozen or so teams still on Bally Sports channels will wind up not getting payments in 2024 and will have to go it alone. NBC Sports RSNs currently carry games of the White Sox, Phillies, Giants and A’s and who knows where NBC is going to go with the RSN model.
For now, the Cubs are still making money from Marquee Sports Network, an estimated $100 million a year.
But for many other teams, with that RSN money drying up, overall revenue could drop. That’s a cautionary tale for the next CBA, as owners are going to want a salary cap if there’s less revenue coming in. That’ll be fun, too.
As always, we await developments.