Why Comcast Customers May Face Higher Fees for Bally Sports RSNs

As Comcast and Bally Sports’ carriage dispute extends into its first week, customers may face higher costs with potential changes in subscription plans. The ongoing negotiations highlight challenges for viewers wanting to access local MLB games.

Comcast Ballys Sports
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We are nearly a week into the carriage dispute between Comcast and the owners of Bally Sports networks that started on May 1, and baseball fans continue to be left in the dark. 

Fans of 12 MLB teams across the U.S. have not been able to watch their local games due to a breakdown in negotiations between Comcast and Diamond Sports Group (DSG), the parent company of Bally Sports. 

While Comcast and DSG could come to an agreement without changing how much cable customers pay each month, an analysis of recent carriage deals by The Cord Cutting Report suggest that it’s unlikely. 

Three recent carriage deals Comcast has struck with regional sports networks around the U.S. since last year indicate that Xfinity/Comcast customers will likely end up having to subscribe to a higher-priced plan if Bally Sports returns to the cable provider. 

  • In March, Comcast signed a new carriage agreement with MASN, the RSN for the Baltimore Orioles. MASN was moved from a $60 per month plan to an $80 per month plan as a result of the new agreement. (Price increase: $20 per month.)
  • In January, SportsNet Pittsburgh, which broadcasts games for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was moved from Comcast’s Popular TV package to the more expensive Ultimate TV package. This change increased the cost for subscribers who wanted to continue accessing the network, which now included more extensive sports content.  
  • In October 2023, Comcast moved ROOT Sports Network, the RSN for the Seattle Kraken, to a more expensive cable plan, citing the expense of RSNs. ROOT Sports was moved to Comcast’s Ultimate plan.  

Diamond Sports Group with its potential new partner, Amazon

Regardless of whether DSG and Comcast can come to an agreement, time is not on Comcast’s side. That’s because Amazon is poised to become a key player in distributing local MLB and NBA games across the U.S. 

Diamond Sports Group, facing over $8 billion in debt, filed for bankruptcy in 2023, and has a tentative deal with Amazon as part of its plan to emerge from Chapter 11.

Amazon would take a minority stake in DSG under the new partnership. If approved by the bankruptcy court, Amazon would offer regional Bally Sports networks as part of an add-on bundle to Amazon Prime subscribers. The RSNs would no longer be called Bally Sports, and operate under a new name. 

While no pricing has been announced or proposed by Amazon or DSG, it’s worth noting that other MLB teams, including NESN, YES Network, and Monumental Sports have been offering standalone streaming access priced between $20 to $30 per month. 

Which MLB Teams and Fans Are Affected?

Twelve MLB teams are impacted, including: the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers.

Fans of these teams who rely on Comcast are unable to watch games broadcast by Bally Sports. The blackout has left fans scrambling for alternative ways to catch their favorite teams in action.

Apple TV+ to the rescue?

Incidental to the blackouts, Apple TV+ will host games with five of the affected MLB teams. (This schedule was set at the beginning of the regular season.) Notably, Apple TV+ has no local blackout restrictions this year. 

These teams are scheduled for the following games on Apple TV+:

  • Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels on May 10
  • Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays on May 17
  • Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Guardians on May 17
  • Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox on May 31
  • Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners on May 31
  • Los Angeles Angels at San Francisco Giants on June 14

Other TV options

  1. National Broadcasts: Games airing on national networks like FOX, ESPN, and TBS remain unaffected by the dispute. Cheaper live TV streaming services such as Sling TV carry national broadcast channels.   
  2. Streaming Services: DIRECTV STREAM and Fubo offer Bally Sports channels and provide free trial periods. These trials offer fans an opportunity to watch games for at least a week while deciding on a subscription. The services support most Smart TVs, as well as streaming devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
  3. TV antenna for FOX games: Fans can watch national broadcast games for free on FOX by using a TV antenna.

While this issue remains unresolved, fans can still access games by leveraging the free trials of DIRECTV STREAM and Fubo. 

Exploring national channels for broadcasts and setting up a TV antenna for local FOX stations could help fans stay connected to the action. Despite the Comcast-Bally carriage dispute, baseball fans can continue following their teams by exploring these alternative viewing options.

Jim Kimble is a seasoned industry expert with over two decades of journalism experience. He has been at the forefront of the cord-cutting movement since 2016, testing and writing about TV-related products and services. He founded The Cord Cutting Report in 2016, and serves as the editor.

Major publications, including MarketWatch, Forbes, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, have interviewed Kimble for his years of expertise. He gives advice on the complexities consumers are navigating with streaming options, and over-the-air TV. Kimble has been a staff writer or correspondent for several award-winning, daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe.

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