Scripps Sports could enter local sports media rights arena if Bally Sports falters
The regional sports network saga continues.
It doesn’t necessarily concern the Cleveland Cavaliers or Cleveland Guardians, but it would be unrealistic for there not be any residual effect on Northeast Ohio’s pro teams who have deals with Bally Sports.
While everyone was looking over there at Bally Sports, Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns AT&T SportsNet, was telling the teams it does business with in Colorado, Utah, Houston and Pittsburgh with rights to NBA teams the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz, MLB’s Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins that they’re getting out of the local sports biz.
This and the Bally Sports situation — both houses of cards built on the fandom of sports fans over decades — appear to be swaying in the wind. The ultimate gale force gust that knocks it over appears to be just over the horizon as the Diamond Sports Group, Bally’s holding company, contemplates its next move. Although bankruptcy appears to be on the horizon.
What comes next? Who knows. MLB has promised fans will get their games regardless. For the NBA teams that will lose out on cash, the regular season is nearing the end, so the damage won’t be too great financially in the short term.
But what happens if the regional sports model finally implodes? There is a new name to keep an eye on.
Enter Scripps Sports, a division launched by the E.W. Scripps Company in December. Scripps also owns WEWS (Channel 5), a Beacon Journal news partner.
And, yes, Scripps wants in the live sports game.
“Cable subscriptions are down, and regional sports networks are challenged, keeping fans from watching their home teams,” Scripps president Brian Lawlor said in a statement announcing the division's formation.
That pretty much summarizes the current situation where over-the-air availability of Cavs games has been non-existent since the end of the 2017-18 and rare for the Guardians because of contracts with regional sports networks.
“Between our vast number of local stations and ION, a national network that can be customized in many markets, we believe Scripps is positioned to widely showcase leagues and players that are currently limited by aging distribution deals,” Lawlor said.
And, yes, Scripps has been getting calls, according to reports.
It’s too soon to see how this will how play out, but should sports rights Armageddon happen, Scripps finds itself in a position to benefit.
It’s conceivable sports fans can, also. Multiple ION channels are available on cable systems and streaming services, but more notably, they’re available via an antenna over-the-air. Between the three distribution methods, theoretically, the teams reach the widest audience possible.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Bally Sports issues could make way for Scripps Sports