Diamond Sports urges baseball fans to ‘raise your voices’ in dispute with Comcast

A fan reacts at the Braves home opening day game versus the Diamondbacks at Truist Park in Atlanta on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

A fan reacts at the Braves home opening day game versus the Diamondbacks at Truist Park in Atlanta on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Diamond Sports Group, the owner of Bally’s regional sports networks, released a letter to fans on Tuesday night amid the ongoing dispute with cable provider Comcast/Xfinity.

The letter calls for Comcast subscribers to voice their displeasure with not being able to watch local teams, such as the Braves, to the provider.

The broadcast deal between Diamond and Comcast expired on May 1. Without a contract, the cable provider has not carried Braves games on Bally’s Sports South and Bally’s Sports Southeast since. The dispute has also affected 14 other major markets. Bally’s also broadcasts Hawks games in the Atlanta market.

The headline of the letter stated “Comcast Xfinity, fans want their games back!”

The remainder of the letter is as follows:

“Dear Sports Fans,

“Xfinity recently pulled the plug on our networks despite our best efforts to reach a mutually beneficial distribution deal. Their refusal to broadcast games while we continue the conversation is disappointing for many reasons, but above all because it hurts you, the fans, and the sports media industry at large. We appreciate that sports rights are confusing – and the industry is evolving in a way that is not always prioritizing the fans. This letter is an effort for us to be honest and transparent with you.

“Bally Sports isn’t just a local sports network; it brings you, the fans, closer to your favorite local teams and talent, delivering shared memories, night after night. And it’s not just the fans who are directly impacted – the teams and leagues with whom we have built relationships for decades are hurt by this as well.

“Bottom line, Xfinity’s current proposal will immediately put Bally Sports on a tier requiring you to pay more to see your favorite teams. This matter is not an attempt to ask Xfinity for more money. In fact, we are just asking them to accept market terms, similar to what Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications, DirecTV and DirecTV STREAM all did just last month.

“Our goal? Reach a deal and get your local teams back on air. Sadly, Xfinity hasn’t been willing to engage in meaningful discussions, nor will they put the channels back on while we continue to work through this. We’re not giving up, though. We want to make this work with Xfinity and hope that they recognize the crucial role Bally Sports plays in serving local sports fans. The stakes are high. Millions of our customers who enjoy the games we broadcast are already being left in the dark.

“Now we’re turning to you, the fans. Raise your voices, let Xfinity know you want your teams back on the air. Tell them to do right by the fans. After all, you are the ones who pay to make it happen. Your opinion matters.

– Diamond Sports Group, owner of the Bally Sports regional networks”

Comcast subscribers were unable to watch the Braves series-finale against the Mariners on Wednesday and a big three-game series against the Dodgers this weekend. The dispute continues as the Braves hosted the Red Sox for a two-game series starting Tuesday.

Comcast accounted for almost one-quarter of homes in the Braves’ home television territory,

The deal between Comcast and Diamond expired in September, according to people familiar with the situation and as indicated in Comcast’s statement last week. After a six-month extension was agreed upon, it took affect in October with an expiration date of April 30.

Diamond had the opportunity to extend that agreement to a year, but did not choose to do so by a March deadline, according to a person familiar with the situation. That meant the end of the rights expired on May 1.

Comcast has wanted to move the Bally networks to a premium tier as it has done with other regional sports networks. With Bally’s available on other carriers, blackouts can’t be lifted by Major League Baseball.

At the heart of the dispute is an upcoming bankruptcy hearing. Diamond Sports filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last March. It had a series of missed payments to teams and sued Sinclair Broadcast Group, its parent company, over transactions made when Sinclair had control over the company, in July. Diamond is due back in bankruptcy court on June 18.