Broadcast sports media is changing rapidly. Part of that change is the way we watch our local teams. Regional Sports Networks seem to be teetering. What will the future hold?
It’s difficult to predict with certainty whether regional sports networks (RSNs) will fail or not, as the success of these networks depends on several factors such as market demand, viewership, and the availability of sports content.
Listen: RSNs are facing several challenges that could impact their long-term viability. One of the biggest challenges is the increasing cost of sports rights, which can make it difficult for RSNs to turn a profit. Additionally, the rise of streaming services and cord-cutting has led to a decline in traditional cable TV subscribers, which could impact RSNs’ ability to reach their target audience.
However, some RSNs have adapted to these challenges by diversifying their content offerings and exploring new distribution channels. For example, some RSNs have started producing original programming and partnering with streaming services to reach a wider audience.
In 2023, Diamond Sports Group, which branded its network as Bally Sports in many markets in the U.S. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The broad Bally Sports RSN was the largest owner of regional sports networks in the country, and it held the rights to broadcast local games for 42 professional teams, including 14 in MLB, 16 in the NBA, and 12 in the NHL.
For most fans, team scrambled to secure broadcasting deals for the 2023 season, but the future is uncertain.
The landscape is changing. Who would have predicted even five years ago that the NFL would have a broadcast deal with a streaming service like it does with NC and Peacock TV? Or that the XFL and NBA would be seeking deals worth hundreds of millions to have a portion of their games online only?
It’s possible that the RSN will slowly disappear, leaving sports fans no choice but to subscribe to services that provide their local baseball, hockey, or basketball teams. The NFL seems intent on keeping games on national networks and sprinkling in special programming on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Ultimately, the success of RSNs will depend on their ability to adapt to changing market conditions and consumer preferences. While some may struggle in the current landscape, others may find ways to thrive and evolve in the years to come.