- AT&T Sportsnet channels are reportedly owned by Warner Bros. Discovery on the verge of bankruptcy.
- The channels broadcast regular season games for several MLB, NBA, and NHL teams in multiple states.
- The news comes weeks after reports emerged that the largest regional sports provider in the United States is headed for bankruptcy.
Weeks after reports surfaced of financial troubles besetting Diamond Sports Group – the largest operator of regional sports networks in the US – Warner Bros. has announced. Discovery teams up with plans to divest itself of the regional sports broadcasting business as well.
The channels in question are still branded as AT&T Sportsnet after Warner Bros. Discovery acquired the assets of WarnerMedia, previously owned by AT&T, last year. The channels broadcast regular season games for multiple MLB, NBA, and NHL teams, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal reported that the channels have informed the teams that they will not have enough money to pay upcoming rights fees owed to the sports leagues, and Warner Bros. will not. Discovery “fund our deficits.”
The AT&T Sportsnet channels cover the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, and Colorado Rockies.
“If we cannot reach an agreement to transfer ownership of the network (and associated rights)” by March 31, “our only realistic option is to file for chapter 7 liquidation,” a letter sent to the read teams, according to the Journal. .
Warner Bros. Discovery has been trying to get out of the regional sports industry for some time, as it is negotiating the rights of AT&T Sportsnet to move back to the leagues, according to the Sports Business Journal.
The Sports Business Journal also reported that the network told teams it will allow them to continue using Warner Bros. production staff. Discovery and equipment to broadcast future games if needed. The network must carefully negotiate the local broadcast with the NBA, as the conglomerate also owns Turner Sports, which is negotiating an extension to continue premiering NBA games on TNT.
The AT&T Sportsnet channels are the second set of regional sports networks, commonly known as RSNs, this month to report serious financial troubles that could lead to bankruptcy. Diamond Sports Group, which operates the largest RSN group across the US, missed $140 million in interest payments on debt earlier this month and is reportedly negotiating its options, including bankruptcy.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week that the league is willing to take over broadcast games if necessary, and that a new agreement could lead to positive changes given the industry’s financial struggles for the league.
Fans have complained about sports “blackouts” for years, which occur when fans can’t watch games in their local market through a streaming service like MLB TV because of restrictions imposed by RSN contracts.
Manfred said last week that Diamond’s financial struggles could end blackouts if the league takes over most of the broadcast.
Warner Bros. did not give Discovery responded immediately to a request for comment.