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Miami Marlins Offer Two Months of Bally Sports+ as Diamond Sports Group Ch. 11 Bankruptcy Continues

As Diamond Sports Group moves closer to a confirmation hearing in late-July amid its Ch. 11 bankruptcy, the Bally Sports RSN operator will need to provide its league partners with documentation of its carriage agreements with certain distributors, albeit with restrictions to safeguard against divulging sensitive information. Attorneys for Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League will be given access to Diamond Sports Group contracts with Cox, Charter and DirecTV with strict levels of confidentiality following a ruling by Judge Christopher Lopez within U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. The most-favored nation clauses within these deals will be released in an anonymized manner to be reviewed by non-staff counsel of the leagues.

Diamond Sports Group and Comcast Corporation were unable to come to terms on a new carriage agreement before the expiration of the deal at the end of April, limiting the consumer footprint in certain marketplaces. Comcast had moved several of its regional sports network partners to its “Ultimate TV” tier in the past, which requires consumers to pay a premium to receive those channels. As the bankruptcy proceedings continue, the Miami Marlins have introduced an offer to pay for consumers to receive two months of games through Bally Sports+, the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming service.

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“It’s not summer without Marlins baseball, and we want to ensure that Marlins fans have access to watch our games whether at loanDepot park, at home or on-the-go. With thanks to our ownership, we are proud to offer two months of Bally Sports+ for our fans to catch every pitch of Marlins Baseball,” Caroline O’Connor, Marlins President of Business Operations, said in a statement. “With this incredible offer, fans can catch our games and follow along throughout the summer months – on us.”

Bally Sports+ provides fans a means to watch the games without a television provider and currently has direct-to-consumer broadcast rights for five of the 12 MLB teams it carries on linear television. Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. testified in bankruptcy court last year that Diamond Sports Group threatened bankruptcy and the subsequent selective rejecting of contracts if the league did not grant it direct-to-consumer broadcast rights to strengthen the Bally Sports+ offering. Manfred declined this proposal and established a local media department, which began producing and disseminating games for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks following the teams being dropped by Diamond Sports Group.

Diamond Sports Group agreed to a streaming deal with Amazon that would make Prime Video the means for consumers to purchase direct-to-consumer access to stream local regional sports networks and live game broadcasts. Earlier this year, Diamond was approved to receive $450 million in debtor-in-possession financing, and Amazon agreed to pay $115 million in convertible notes, some of which are expected to be used to pay back the DIP financing it receives. Junior creditors would then assume operations of the subsidiary if it is able to emerge and successfully execute its restructuring support agreement (RSA).

Diamond also reached an amended management services agreement with Sinclair, its parent company, that was approved by Judge Lopez. The pact dropped litigation that Diamond had brought against Sinclair and provided the plaintiff a cash payment of $495 million, along with ongoing management and transitional services in support of its reorganization and partition from parent company operations.

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