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Bally Sports owner files for bankruptcy, MLB bolsters broadcast capabilities

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred previously said the league was prepared to broadcast additional 2023 games, if necessary. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred previously said the league was prepared to broadcast additional 2023 games, if necessary. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 15 (UPI) -- Diamond Sports Group, which controls sports networks for 42 professional teams, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company announced. MLB said it expects the company to continue broadcasts, but cited contingency plans.

The Bally Sports owner, which is a subsidiary of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, announced the "voluntary" Chapter 11 filing Tuesday night. Diamond announced Feb. 15 that it missed a $140 million interest payment and had a 30-day grace period to resolve its debt, unless it chose to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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Diamond, which made the filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, said it maintains more than $8 billion in current debt.

"Diamond intends to use the proceedings to restructure and strengthen its balance sheet, while continuing to broadcast quality live sports productions to fans across the nation," the company said. "DSG expects that its Bally Sports regional sports networks will continue to operate in the ordinary course during the Chapter 11 process.

"Diamond is well capitalized with approximately $425 million of cash on hand to fund its business and restructuring."

Diamond holds broadcast rights for 14 MLB teams. MLB holds digital broadcast rights for 14 of those teams. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred previously said the league could step in for coverage. MLB reaffirmed that sentiment Tuesday night. The league also called Diamond's filing "unfortunate."

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"Despite Diamond's economic situation, there is every expectation that they will continue televising all games they are committed to during the bankruptcy process," MLB said in a statement.

"MLB is ready to produce and distribute games in their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with our clubs."

MLB cited MLBTV and MLB Network and said the league has the capability to "deliver games to fans, uninterrupted."

"In addition, we have hired additional seasoned local media professionals to bolster our capabilities in anticipation of this development," MLB said.

"Over the long term, we will reimagine our distribution model to address the changing media climate and ultimately reach an even larger number of fans."

Diamond said negotiations are underway for a restructuring agreement with debt holders. The company plans to separate from Sinclair as part of its agreement with creditors.

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