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Players to Watch Amid the RSN Fallout

Players to Watch Amid the RSN Fallout

“You can’t tell the players without a scorecard!”

Back in the 1980s, when Bostonians could watch 100 or so Red Sox games for free every year on WSBK with Will McDonough’s kid calling the action, the wizened hawkers outside Fenway would holler the phrase to drive program sales—and actually aid fans of the ball club, which has never put player names on the back of the home jerseys.

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Those days are gone forever. Sean McDonough calls hockey games for Disney, NESN’s direct-to-consumer product costs $329.99 per season, and WSBK’s programming day is now devoted entirely to infomercials, syndicated judge shows and repeats of Chuck Lorre comedies. Yet the scorecard catch phrase still applies, at least when figuring out who’s who in the RSN space in the wake of Diamond Sports Group’s Chapter 11 filing.

Sox fans don’t have to worry about the ramifications of the Diamond bankruptcy—NESN is an indie RSN controlled by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group. But baseball enthusiasts in 14 other markets are keeping an eye on the proceedings as Opening Day approaches. While it’s unlikely that this season’s broadcasts will be disrupted (more on that in a bit), we’re now in the early innings of a comprehensive overhaul of the RSN model.

To that end, here’s a primer on some of the players in what is expected to be a drawn-out battle to keep baseball’s local-TV pipeline up and running.

Diamond Sports Group

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Diamond CEO David Preschlack characterized the bankruptcy process as a means to “reset our capital structure and strengthen our balance sheet through the elimination of approximately $8 billion of debt.” More to the point, Preschlack assured fans of teams such as the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels that “DSG will continue broadcasting games and connecting fans across the country with the sports and teams they love.”

In other words, Diamond will continue to operate, at least in the near term. In an 83-page summary released Wednesday morning, DSG projects that it will close out the year with a cash balance of $462.9 million. Preschlack, who previously oversaw the NBC Sports RSNs after putting in 20 years at Disney/ESPN (affiliate sales/distribution), was named CEO of DSG in December 2022. (At the time of Preschlack’s official hiring notice, he had already been sitting on the DSG board for seven months.)

Preschlack was brought in to smooth…

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