Report: FanDuel Close to Naming-Rights Deal With Bally Sports Ohio Parent Company Diamond Sports

Written By Mike Breen on June 10, 2024
FanDuel Bally Sports Ohio Naming Rights

Sports fans in Ohio could soon be watching their favorite local pro teams on a FanDuel-branded television network. 

FanDuel, the top Ohio sports betting platform, is reportedly close to a major deal with Diamond Sports Group that would give the company naming rights for Diamond’s 18 regional sports networks. Those channels currently operate under the Bally Sports name and broadcast MLB, NHL, and NBA games to local markets. 

The Bally Sports Ohio network broadcasts Cleveland Guardians, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Cavaliers and Columbus Blue Jackets games. The Bally name has also become a staple in Ohio thanks to Bally Bet, one of the state’s 19 Ohio sportsbooks.

FanDuel would provide original programming to Ohio sports network

Along with the rebranding of the networks, the potential deal would also give FanDuel an equity stake in Diamond Sports and access to its regional sports broadcasting rights. 

FanDuel would also provide original programming content to the rebranded networks as part of the deal. The sports wagering company currently operates FanDuelTV, which features sports and betting-focused studio programs. The Diamond deal wouldn’t affect FanDuelTV, but some of its original programming could be shared with the regional sports networks. 

The deal — first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Legal Sports Report — would also let FanDuel sell its streaming service (currently branded as Bally Sports+) to customers. 

Rebranding could happen as soon as this fall

Should the FanDuel deal go through, Ohio viewers could see Bally Sports Ohio rebranded after the end of the current MLB season. That’s when Diamond’s naming rights deal concludes with Bally’s, which also operates the Bally Bet sportsbook in the Buckeye State.

Diamond Sports is a subsidiary of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which acquired the regional sports channels (then operating as Fox Sports) in 2019 from Disney for $9.6 billion. Bally’s entered its naming-rights deal in 2020 that would have paid Diamond more than $85 million over 10 years. 

FanDuel deal contingent on resolution of bankruptcy case

Diamond Sports filed for bankruptcy in 2023, and part of its reorganization proposal included ending Bally’s naming-rights deal at the conclusion of the 2024 baseball season. 

A source told LSR that the FanDuel deal hinges on the resolution of the bankruptcy case: 

“Any company that wants to get involved with Diamond and the network rights would want to make sure it doesn’t become responsible for their debts.”

Diamond’s deal with Spectrum in Ohio appears safe for now

In the wake of the bankruptcy filing and continuing financial strain, Diamond has sometimes struggled to retain team licensing rights and cable carrier deals. The potential new partnership with FanDuel could be a key to Diamond Sports’ future. Diamond previously announced they received a funding boost thanks to investments from Amazon and various creditors. 

Comcast stopped carrying Bally Sports networks on May 1 after its contract with the network ended and they were unable to negotiate a new one. That has left some major markets without a cable carrier to broadcast MLB games, including Minneapolis, Detroit and Atlanta. 

Bally Sports Ohio continues to be carried by Spectrum, the leading cable operator in Ohio. In April, Diamond Sports announced a multi-year renewal of its deal with Spectrum’s parent company, Charter Communications. So, for now, Ohio sports fans are able to continue watching the Reds and Guardians via Spectrum cable.  

Leagues worried about Diamond’s post-bankruptcy business plan

At a Diamond Sports bankruptcy hearing in Houston on June 4, lawyers for the NHL and NBA expressed concerns that the company’s post-bankruptcy business plan wouldn’t be viable. They suggested that the leagues may be forced to find alternative broadcast plans without a completed reorganization plan (which must be approved by the courts to emerge from bankruptcy protection) soon. The next bankruptcy hearing is slated for late July.

In the face of rising debts, Diamond Sports has had issues with missed payments to individual MLB teams, including the Reds and Guardians. But last year, a bankruptcy judge ordered Diamond to make those payments. Earlier this year, Diamond reached an agreement with the Guardians to broadcast games through the 2024 season.

But Diamond Sports did end up severing ties with the Arizona Diamondbacks (Bally Sports Arizona was shuttered last fall) and, more recently, the San Diego Padres. 

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayOhio
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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