Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group has obtained the rights to stream games from 16 NBA teams later this year, according to sources. A formal announcement is expected to come on Thursday.
The deal, originally reported by Bloomberg, was necessary for Sinclair to launch a direct-to-consumer platform. Sinclair will launch the service later this year with those NBA games, in addition to an NHL deal it cut in December that covers the local rights to 12 teams and individual deals it has cut with four MLB teams: the Tigers, Royals, Brewers and Marlins.
Subscribers to the DTC service will be able to stream these games in their local markets for a monthly fee that’s expected to be more than $20. The games still will be available on Sinclair’s Bally Sports’ regional sports networks. The streamed games will not be available nationally.
Sinclair’s NBA deal is a short-term one. It is not known how much Sinclair is paying for these streaming rights, but sources said that any fee would be a nominal one.
In December, Sinclair signed a similar deal with the NHL. That deal, which runs for four-years, gave Sinclair DTC rights without any incremental payment, sources said. Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group holds the local rights to 12 U.S. NHL teams.
The NBA and NHL want to do deals like these as a way to keep the RSNs afloat as long as possible. Execs with both leagues have wanted to keep Sinclair’s RSNs up-and-running while getting a head-start in the direct-to-consumer business. They believe the RSN business will migrate to direct-to-consumer eventually.
The NBA deal leaves MLB as the sole league that has yet to cut a deal with Sinclair. In the fall, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said during an interview at the CAA World Congress that Sinclair did not have enough digital rights from enough clubs to have a viable direct-to-consumer product.
Sinclair holds the local rights to 14 MLB teams; it holds direct-to-consumer streaming rights to just four of those teams.
Sinclair’s NBA deal comes as the broadcast company’s Diamond Sports Group secured $600M in financing for the launch of its DTC platform this year, according to that Bloomberg report. The report described the financing as “a new super-priority first-lien loan from an existing group of secured creditors.”