Regional sports networks are receiving a bad reputation of late, but Bally’s chair Soo Kim is bullish on their long-term outlook. Kim spoke with Front Office Sports’ Owen Poindexter about the present and future of the medium.
Kim’s company entered into a 10-year, $85 million naming deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group in November 2020. The deal secured naming rights to 21 of Sinclair’s RSNs.
Sinclair is planning on bundling those RSNs into a streaming service. The company outlined the plan in an 8K filing with the SEC. Sinclair believes they could attract 4.4 million subscribers to the service while generating around $2 billion in revenue. The breakdown would be split into three different sections.
Around 1.7 million subscribers to the service would come from the cord-cutter category, which has limited access to their favorite team’s games if they play on a Sinclair channel. The next group would be 1.4 million RSN subscribers from its distributor partners. Finally, the group is rounded out by 1.3 million subscribers on its traditional TV services.
Kim thinks this new streaming service would be a great way to spark gaming and TV integration.
“You can create a very different kind of experience of how sports are consumed,” Kim said to Front Office Sports. “It could potentially be a lot more interactive, a lot more engaging, and we think that’s where the future of sports is going to go.”
Even if the RSN market keeps slowing down, Bally’s got plenty of value over the first year of this deal. “Last year, there were something like 4 billion impressions of the words ‘Bally Sports,’” Kim told FOS.
How much an impression is worth is anyone’s guess but the ultimate goal for Bally’s isn’t to drive sports betting.
“Sports gaming itself is not actually the best gambling product for the house,” said Kim. “There’s variable margins, informational advantages, and liquidity is hard to match sometimes. iGaming is a much better business.”
There were plenty of angles on Bally’s radar when they made this massive naming deal, and so far, they seem pleased with the results.
Stephen A. Smith, Jay Williams Get Worked Up Arguing Over Kyrie Irving
Smith called Williams “an apologist” for defending Irving.
Stephen A. Smith may be trying to turn himself down a bit since being hospitalized for COVID during the New Year’s holiday. But as pointed out by the New York Post‘s Ryan Glasspiegel, it sure didn’t look that way on Wednesday’s First Take while arguing about Kyrie Irving with guest co-host Jay Williams.
First Take viewers and sports media observers already know how Smith feels about Irving, who’s refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine and only played in four games for the Brooklyn Nets this season due to health and safety protocols throughout the league.
When Smith announced on-air in December that he tested positive for COVID and was experiencing symptoms, he ended the segment by criticizing the Nets for the “disgraceful move” of allowing Irving to rejoin the team despite only being able to play in road games. (He’s prohibited from playing in Brooklyn due to New York state vaccine mandates.)
On Wednesday, Smith repeated that assertion, adding that it would be bad for basketball if the Nets won the NBA championship with Irving only playing away from Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. And if it wasn’t certain how Smith feels, check out the look on his face at the 1:14 mark of the video below when Williams begins to defend the Nets.
With Kevin Durant out four to six weeks with a sprained knee, the Nets will likely slide down the Eastern Conference standings and possibly lose home-court advantage in the opening rounds of the NBA Playoffs. But with Irving allowed to play on the road, Williams argued that the Nets might enjoy an advantage in opposing arenas. Smith, to put it mildly, disagreed.
“Kyrie Irving being available for just road games and him playing for the Brooklyn Nets under those conditions,” said Smith, “you’re all in or you’re all out, I believe that if the Brooklyn Nets win the championship, it would be bad for basketball.”
Williams, who removed his jacket as he got more worked up, said Smith is attacking Irving’s character and created a narrative against the guard, who has every right not to take the vaccine if he so chooses.
The two probably could’ve gone on longer, but moderator Molly Qerim closed the segment because Williams had a radio appearance scheduled. Williams then amusingly accused Smith of planning a debate that he knew would be cut off. Smith responded by calling Williams “an apologist” for Irving.
This got heated! And they’ll shout it out over this topic again with fewer than 40 games remaining in the Nets’ season.
Ron Franklin, Longtime ESPN Broadcaster, Passes Away at 79
Ron Franklin was a prominent voice for a generation of fans growing up watching college football and basketball on ESPN. The veteran broadcaster passed away on Tuesday at the age of 79.
The sad news was first revealed by Mike Barnes, communication consultant and former sports director at Austin’s KVUE.
Franklin is best known for his work with ESPN, where he called games and anchored studio shows from 1987 to 2011. In addition to college football and basketball, he also called tennis, college baseball, and Olympic sports during his tenure at the network.
Before joining ESPN, Franklin was a sports director for news stations in New Mexico, Tulsa, and Houston in the 1960s and 1970s. From 1971 to 1982, he was the play-by-play broadcaster for the Houston Oilers. Franklin then moved on to call University of Texas football and men’s basketball from 1983 to 1988.
Fran Fraschilla, Franklin’s longtime broadcast partner on college basketball, shared the news on Twitter upon learning of it.
Unfortunately, Franklin didn’t avoid controversy during his time at ESPN. In 2005, he was reprimanded by producers after a condescending remark to sideline reporter Holly Rowe in which he called her “sweetheart.” Five years later, he called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweet baby” during a production meeting. When she objected, Franklin followed up with a profane insult.
Franklin was pulled from the radio broadcast of the Fiesta Bowl after the incident and fired by ESPN soon thereafter a colleague reported him to management. He sued the network for wrongful termination, a case that was eventually settled out of court.
Plenty of other colleagues, friends, and fan expressed their condolences for Franklin on social media after hearing of his passing, including Dick Vitale and former NFL coach Wade Phillips.
Just hearing the news that Ron Franklin has passed. We spent many years side by side every Saturday and Monday night for @espn. I always had chills when that voice opened our shows knowing it was time to go. “Kutter, Kenny, Jon, let’s have a good one”. RIP dear friend. pic.twitter.com/Lx0xdNbZxu— jon sundvold (@JonSundvold) January 19, 2022
“He’s going to be missed. I just think of all the great times we had working together,” former broadcast partner Mike Gottfried told AL.com. “I just knew the guy came prepared, he worked hard, he studied and his voice was so dominant, and so good that everybody knew he was. He loved the game, he loved the coaches, he loved the players.”
Sinclair’s Estimated Streaming Service Fee Much More Expensive Than Competitors
The estimated fee of $20.25 would be a good deal more than other direct-to-consumer services such as the Disney bundle, priced at $13.99.
Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group recently gained streaming rights for live NHL and NBA games. The company is working hard to become the premier direct-to-consumer service in sports. However, as Sportico’s Anthony Crupi reports, that will likely come at a premium price for consumers.
Outlined in Sinclair’s 8-K quarterly report filed to the SEC, all scenarios point to a monthly subscription fee of around $20.25. But will that be the most profitable scenario in which Diamond Sports achieves 975,000 subscribers for $237 million worth of revenue? Or will it result in the lesser scenario of 309,000 subscribers, predicting $75 million in revenue?
The rates are based on Diamond’s ability to stream NHL and NBA games in its affiliated franchises’ local markets. The fees are expected to increase as Diamond renews its legacy distribution deals with its member MLB teams. The Bally Sports nets have distribution deals in place with 14 MLB clubs, but only the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, and Milwaukee Brewers have signed off on a streaming agreement.
In 2021, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley in 2021 took issue with refuted reports of the company seeking a $23 monthly fee for consumers. Yet he also provided no details on what price the company had in mind.
The estimated fee of $20.25 would be a good deal more than other direct-to-consumer services such as the Disney bundle, which includes ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu, priced at $13.99.
Sinclair still has a few loose ends to tie up. Its recent $600 million financing deal and associated NBA renewal will be vital for the DTC launch. Last spring, the company’s broadcast division renewed its carriage agreement with Charter. But Sinclair’s standalone RSN deal with providers is scheduled to finish before March 31.
Charter’s Spectrum is the nation’s second-largest cable-TV provider. At the end of 2021’s third quarter, the company serviced 15.3 million residential video subscribers. Renewing the RSN contract is currently being negotiated, but agreeing to such deals is touchier now than ever.
The Diamond RSNs have been non-existent for 8.42 million DISH Network subscribers, even before Sinclair acquired the 21 former Fox Sports channels for $9.6 billion in August 2019.
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