The Twins’ long and winding search for a television home for the upcoming 2024 season has led them back to a familiar place: Bally Sports North.
The club’s long-term deal with Diamond Sports Group, the parent company of BSN and other regional sports networks across the country, ran out after the conclusion of last season, leading the Twins into television free agency.
They landed back on Bally on a one-year deal, which was announced on Monday and leaves the door open for them to potentially make a switch after next season.
“You’re balancing that short-term need for a distribution partner in 2024 with a vision for the future, which we believe will ultimately lead us to where we need to be in 2025 and beyond,” Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter said. “There’s a lot of things you weigh on these things — economics, distribution, production.”
A federal bankruptcy judge — Diamond filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2023 — approved the Twins’ contract with Diamond on Friday. It is unknown publicly how much money the Twins will be receiving for their television rights.
The Twins received approximately $54 million last year during their previous contract but it’s assumed that the Twins are receiving less than that for this season. The Twins, as a result, have spoken about reducing their payroll for this upcoming season.
The news means that nothing will change this year in the way fans watch Twins games. Fans with cable and satellite will watch as they always have on BSN, and for those who wish to stream, that option exists on DirecTV Stream or Fubo. Television subscribers also can stream through the Ball Sports app.
Blackout restrictions will remain for in-market games, a particular disappointment to fans after new television announcer Cory Provus said in December he had been assured that blackouts would be going away and Twins baseball would be more accessible.
The deal also has upset many cord-cutting fans who have been unable to watch the team in recent years on their chosen platform as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV are among the streaming options that do not carry Bally Sports North.
Expanding the reach of their product to ensure that a larger percentage of their fanbase would be able to watch their games has been a long-stated goal of the Twins. That’s something that this deal will not accomplish.
“I have a tremendous amount of empathy for our fanbase. We understand and, frankly, share their frustration. We get it. We’re not tone deaf around this issue,” St. Peter said. “We recognize the importance of streaming, not just for our fans but, frankly, for our business, so we are incented to try to find a solution and very much believe that we’ll be able to deliver on that solution, hopefully in the near term, no later than 2025.”
The short-term pact means that the Twins could potentially be involved in the direct-to-consumer streaming option that Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Florida last week he hoped to implement in 2025.
That plan, per reports, could include around half of the teams in Major League Baseball, and St. Peter said the Twins were “excited” with Manfred’s vision for the future.
“We want to make sure that we have all of our options on the table to try to improve and enhance the accessibility of our games as soon as possible,” St. Peter said. “But we also recognize it’s an evolving, rapidly-changing local media landscape, and with that, we expect it’s going to look a lot different six weeks from now, let alone 12 months from now, so that flexibility, that understanding that again we’ll have to make a decision for 2025 with the information at the time, I think that’s important for us.”