Executives with Sinclair Broadcast Group have told potential investors that its forthcoming regional sports streaming service could charge customers as much as $23 a month, according to a report.
This week, the New York Post said media executives were soliciting investments for the streaming service, which would allow sports enthusiasts to stream Bally Sports regional channels without a cable or satellite television subscription.
According to the report, Sinclair is hoping to raise $250 million in investment funds for the forthcoming streaming service. If it is successful, it could launch the streaming service in time for next year’s baseball season.
The service, which has yet to be named, would be accessible to customers only in the 21 markets where Sinclair offers its Bally Sports channels on traditional cable or satellite. Those who live outside the Bally Sports viewing area would not be able to access the streaming service, the Post reported.
That limited distribution would be a shift from how sports programming is offered through streaming services now. Traditionally, broadcasters and leagues have offered customers access to out-of-market games, while limiting access to games played by a customer’s home team to broadcast, cable or satellite.
If the streaming service launches at $23 a month, it would be more expensive compared to similar products that offer live sports over the Internet. Comcast and ViacomCBS have promised to include national sports content through their own streaming services (Peacock and Paramount Plus), with each service costing no more than $10 a month.
Sinclair acquired the regional sports channels from the Walt Disney Company for $9.6 billion after the latter agreed to purchase certain media assets from 21st Century Fox in 2019. The sale of the sports channels was required in order for Disney to secure regulatory approval for its acquisition of Fox’s general entertainment cable channels as well as its film and TV content. Disney is a majority owner of ESPN and operates its own sports-centric streaming service, ESPN Plus, which costs $6 a month.
After acquiring the channels, Sinclair retired the Fox Sports branding for those networks, forging a licensing deal that saw the channels re-branded under the Bally Sports name.
Over the last two years, Sinclair has struggled to forge carriage deals for the regional sports channels and a few others that are controlled by the broadcast company. Dish Network was one of the first pay TV distributors to drop the Sinclair sports channels, with Hulu and YouTube TV following a short time later.
Last year’s coronavirus pandemic was not kind to Sinclair, either: The company was estimated to lose around $130 million after it was forced to issue refunds to cable and satellite customers due to a lack of live sporting events, which were sidelined due to the health crisis.