Sinclair eyes Bally Sports direct-to-consumer launch in 2022

Sinclair’s large portfolio of Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSN) could soon expand beyond their MVPD and virtual MVPD distribution footprints.

CEO Chris Ripley said today during his company’s first-quarter earnings call that Sinclair has cleared a path with distributors to launch a direct-to-consumer product and added that it has direct-to-consumer rights for the vast majority of teams represented by its RSNs.

“We are in discussions with the leagues and the teams about enhancing some of those rights to make the product even better,” he said. “That’s what’s going on right now and I don’t see that being a threat to timing. The plan is to launch in the first half of 2022.”

The company didn’t share details on a precise launch date for a Bally Sports direct-to-consumer streaming service or how much it would cost.

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Sinclair ended 2020 with approximately 52 million RSN subscribers. That’s without distribution agreements in place with companies including Dish Network, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. However, Ripley his company estimates the total addressable subscriber base under a direct-to-consumer model is more than double that figure.

“We and the teams desire to make the programming as accessible as possible, something that today, unfortunately, is not ideal,” he said. Sinclair is operating under the assumption that incremental revenues from direct-to-consumer will more than offset the loss of revenue due to churn of subscribers from traditional distributor platforms.

Ripley declined to comment on the current status of negotiations with distributors and only said that “time will tell” if the Bally Sports channels find their way back into certain TV packages.

Like current authenticated viewers on the Bally Sports app, direct-to-consumer subscribers will get access to increased functionality for playback and recording, enhanced news and stats, new programming developed with Ballys, and gamification elements including sports betting.