Sinclair Broadcast Group’s long-anticipated direct-to-consumer regional sports streaming app will have a soft launch this Thursday, June 23, 2022. While this isn’t a full rollout, Bally Sports+ will initially be available in five markets to stream Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays games. The app will be priced at $19.99 a month, or $189.99 a year. Sports Business Journal confirmed the news in an interview with Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley.
When the app soft launches, it will be available on mobile devices, Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV. It should be on Roku devices by the All-Star break later in July.
Currently, Bally Sports RSNs, or Regional Sports Networks, are only available on DirecTV Stream as part of their $89.99 Choice Plan. In the past two years, the channels were dropped by YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu and fuboTV. Sinclair’s DirecTV deal will be up in the middle of 2023.
Bally Sports+ enables sports fans to watch games without subscribing to a multichannel pay-TV cable, satellite or overpriced streaming service. However, the question remains whether viewers will subscribe to another sports streaming service. Especially when only five teams will be available on the DTC app to start.
New England Sports Network (NESN) beat Sinclair when it launched its NESN 360 DTC app on June 1, becoming the first RSN to launch a DTC service. The most enticing perk about NESN 360 is the offering of eight tickets to any Red Sox game during the remainder of the 2022 season. However, the app only carries Boston Red Sox games and costs $29.99 a month, making the price of Bally Sports+ look like a steal.
There has been friction between Sinclair and Major League Baseball over streaming rights, and many have been concerned about Sinclair's relatively limited number of teams. Rob Weisbord, Sinclair’s COO and president of Broadcast, told NextTV that Bally Sports+ would expand in the other markets where the company has RSNs during its third quarter this fall. This includes the 16 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams that are carried by Bally Sports. The company is counting on the range of sports to target other audiences besides Major League Baseball fans.
Eventually, users will be able to play games on the app, including fantasy and predictive games with prizes. Other features include advanced statistics and the ability to buy tickets as well as merchandise. However, the features may take a while, as the teams and leagues must approve each added feature before it can be activated.
The app will not have betting, but users can easily use the Bally Bet Sportsbook wherever gambling is legal. It is currently available in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana and Virginia.
The company took on $600 million of debt to fund its plans for the direct-to-consumer (DTC) service. In January, Sinclair laid out its projections for the service in an 8K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which stated that the best-case scenario for the DTC would be to generate $279 million in revenue in 2022, then grow to $859 million in 2023 and reach $2.87 billion in 2027. Bally Sports+ hopes to have 332,000 subscribers in 2022 and 16,074,000 by 2027.