The games might be minor league but Bally’s hopes your interest in them is worthy of the bigs. As of Friday, minor league baseball games will be available on Bally Live, the entertainment company’s over-the-top streaming video service.
For Bally’s, it’s a way to attract new customers to the service as few products are more popular than live sports. Additionally, it’s a bet that the company is making as it hopes to turn around recent performances toward profitability.
Bally Live gets into the box with a minor-league baseball deal
A Friday press release touts Bally’s new partnership with Minor League Baseball. For the first time, the release states, Minor League Baseball has a single, exclusive streaming rights holder. Bally’s will employ those rights in its Bally Live streaming service.
According to the release, every game in every level of the minors will be available on Bally Live. The broadcasts start Friday, March 31. A few prior events made this possible. First, Major League Baseball becoming the “big brother” of Minor League Baseball in 2020 turned the minors into a unified structure.
Before that, minor league baseball in the United States was more of a conglomerate of separate but cooperative entities. If that was still the case, Bally’s acquiring the rights to every single game nationwide would have been far more difficult.
For those wondering why a casino operator is running a streaming service, well, that’s quite a story.
How Bally’s stepped up to the plate with streaming
The tale begins in 2019 when Disney purchased 20th Century Fox. To get regulatory clearance for that acquisition, Disney had to sell off the dozens of regional sports networks (RSNs) that Fox operated.
The Sinclair Corp. purchased the entire lot of those RSNs and spun off a separate company to handle them, Diamond Sports. Yes, the same Diamond Sports which just filed for bankruptcy. Before then, however, Diamond Sports sold the RSNs naming rights to Bally’s.
However, none of that happened in a vacuum. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of cord-cutting (people canceling their cable and satellite television subscriptions in favor of streaming services) continued. As a result, viewership for all those Bally Sports RSNs was tanking on traditional linear broadcasts.
That played a big part in Diamond’s bankruptcy but Bally’s wasn’t oblivious. Bally’s began talking about a streaming service months before Diamond filed for bankruptcy. The hope is that it could use the new service to recapture some of the audience the RSNs had lost.
However, there have been two caveats. First, it was Diamond Sports, not Bally’s, that held all the broadcast rights to all those MLB, NBA, and NHL teams’ games. Secondly, most of those broadcast contracts did not include in-market streaming rights. Thus, even if it was Bally’s on the contracts, it couldn’t show the games on its streaming service to the people most interested in the contests.
To be clear, it is Bally’s, and not Diamond Sports, that now holds these unprecedented minor league baseball rights. Those rights begin to answer two big questions for Bally Live; what’s on it and why would people pay for it?
It’s way too early to tell how much of a boost these games will give Bally Live. Regardless, it could be part of a bigger plan to make Bally’s stockholders happy customers.
Bally’s looks for a late-inning rally, which could benefit sports betting app
Bally’s financials from 2022 looked like balking in the game-winning run. Some lowlights from the company’s full-year financial report include a net loss of $476.8 million and the replacement of former CEO Lee Fenton.
Again, though, Bally’s has made changes to its lineup to adjust. Pushing Bally Live seems to be part of that. A profitable streaming service would diversify the company’s revenue streams and make it stronger overall. To get that service to profitability, it has to have content. For content that will draw eyes, it’s hard to top live sports, which Minor League Baseball just so happens to be.
Some other elements of the partnership with Minor League Baseball should promote awareness of Bally Live as well as in-stadium promotions. That will not include betting on the games, though. Bally Bet and Bally Live are separate products.
Furthermore, jurisdictions with legal US sports betting do not allow bets on minor league baseball games. That doesn’t mean Bally’s won’t try to use Bally Live to benefit Bally Bet, however.
The lineup for Bally’s profitability team
Bally Live customers of the appropriate age should expect to receive marketing materials for Bally Bet in the form of emails and in-app notifications. Such nudges could be especially common for users in states where the Bally Bet sports betting app is currently operational:
- New York
Snagging Bally Live customers and perhaps converting some of them to Bally Bet users isn’t the entire strategy, however. Bally’s is also looking to expand its casino operations, both digital and physical. The company has just received licensure to launch its online casino app in Pennsylvania.
Additionally, Bally’s is pushing for online casino legalization in Rhode Island, where it operates both of the state’s two brick-and-mortar casinos. New physical casino operations in Chicago plus expansion in Kansas City and Rock Island are on the horizon as well.
The grand scheme involves touching them all to borrow baseball jargon. Bally’s would ideally like to serve all your entertainment desires from watching baseball games on your phone to hitting up a blackjack table. Time will tell whether this is a winning lineup.