Consumers who turn to Amazon for almost everything (books, thermal underwear, nacho cheese) may soon be watching their favorite local teams on Prime Video.
Amazon has agreed to invest in sagging Diamond Sports Group (DSG), which operates the Bally Sports regional sports networks in 18 markets nationwide. As a result of the deal, Amazon Prime subscribers could watch their home team on that streaming platform.
The Amazon deal with DSG could alter how sports fans and bettors view the games that matter most to them.
The Bally Sports networks provide local broadcasts for 37 major professional teams (15 in the NBA, and 11 each for the NHL and MLB). But a bankruptcy proceeding that hangs over DSG has threatened the future of such broadcasts. Bally purchases the branding rights for the RSN, but that’s the only connection to the issue for that well-known gaming company.
In addition, the new deal would end the Bally Sports branding by the end of the year in a mutual parting of ways. Bally Sports was slated to have branding on the regional sports networks in a 10-year deal.
Under the terms of the deal, Amazon would pump money into DSG, pending approval by the bankruptcy court in Texas that is currently handling a lawsuit against that company. Federal communications officials would also need to sign off on the deal, which could result in millions of fans having the chance to watch their team on Prime.
Teams that currently have local games on Bally Sports include the World Series champion Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels and Clippers, the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons, and Tigers, the Phoenix Suns, and many more. Florida fans access six major pro teams on two Bally Sports networks.
Amazon Prime has amped up its efforts for original and exclusive programming as it competes with Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, and other streaming platforms. Because of its advantage as the most prominent national retailer in the U.S., Amazon has a customer database it can leverage and a large subscriber base for Amazon Prime.
Amazon Prime members get free shipping on most products and perks that include deals on travel and purchases using Amazon gas cards and credit cards. They also get access to Prime Video content, such as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, both of which have been nominated for Emmy Awards. Amazon Prime has carried exclusive coverage of Thursday Night Football for the NFL for the last two seasons.
What Regional Sports Would be Available on Prime Video?
According to reports of the proposed deal, if the arrangement between Amazon and DSG is approved, Bally Sports networks would still operate in their existing markets via contracts with local cable companies. But, in many of those 18 markets, the sports broadcasts would also be available for free to Amazon Prime subscribers.
It’s unclear if this deal would apply to every MLB, NBA, and NHL team under contract with DSG to have their games on Bally Sports. Last season, Major League Baseball was forced to step in and provide local broadcasts for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks games.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which purchased the RSN formerly known as Fox Sports (as in Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Ohio, etc.), spun the business into DSG. But changing consumer habits have hit them hard. Many customers have been cutting the cord and moving away from traditional cable television packages in exchange for streaming apps and YouTube.
Even this possible Hail Mary by Amazon may not save the RSN business model. The future of regional sports consumption could be streaming apps like Prime that are only available via a smart TV or handheld device on a subscription basis.