Sinclair Broadcast Group is launching a direct-to-consumer offering of local sports channels to allow sports fans to subscribe to the streaming service and watch their favorite team play without cable. The broadcaster will also offer an authenticated TV Everywhere streaming option first.
Streaming Alternative to Cable
The move is targeting people who keep their cable only to be able to watch local sports channels, and the streaming offering will let them get rid of the cable subscription and switch to the streaming service, for a yet unknown price.
Sinclair’s streaming service will challenge existing subscriptions to vMVPD services such as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV, which dropped the Fox/Sinclair regional sports networks this year, while other services such as Sling TV and Fubo TV do not offer them at all. The only competition is from the streaming app ESPN+ which offers only limited access to live games.
The regional sports channels of the broadcasting company will be renamed after Sinclair entered into an agreement with Bally’s Corp for the naming rights in November, in a deal that was hailed as set to revolutionize sports betting. The first-of-its-kind agreement will incorporate Bally’s gaming technology into broadcasts on the channels and other Sinclair-owned properties.
Relationships with Distributors Will Not Change
The combination of Bally’s vertically integrated sports betting technology and large footprint across multiple US jurisdictions with Sinclair’s portfolio of live regional sports networks and local broadcast stations, is not meant to change Sinclair’s relationship with distributors, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley outlined at Wells Fargo TMT Summit.
“I do think we’ll be living in a hybrid world for many years to come where direct-to-consumer and traditional pay-TV bundles will co-exist for the foreseeable future and that’s the path we’re going to be moving towards in the future. Just because we’re going to have direct-to-consumer product doesn’t mean that we’re going to exist the traditional pay-TV market place.” Chris Ripley, CEO, Sinclair Broadcast Group
Sinclair acquired for $9.6 billion the Fox Sports Net regional channels in partnership with Entertainment Studios from Disney in 2019. Having already owned the ESPN network, and post the acquisition of the assets of 20th Century Fox, the government required the entertainment giant to sell the channels. This year, Sinclair had to swallow a $4.23 billion write down for the channels, and the latest developments present new opportunities.
The deal with the Standard General hedge fund-controlled Bally’s is expected to drive up views for the broadcaster at times when its investment in local sports networks is decreasing.