Just four years ago, AT&T SportsNet announced a multi-year extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates to continue to be the team’s regional television home.
Now, according to Sportico, the outlet has come up short in their contractually-agreed upon payments to their MLB franchise partners. The three teams affected by this are the Pirates, Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros.
Exact details of how far off AT&T SportsNet was from their expected payments is unclear, but there is enough of a discrepancy to cause concerns about the long-term partnership between the outlet and the three MLB teams.
“An executive with direct knowledge of the RSNs’ financial dealings confirmed to Sportico that the AT&T outlets in Denver, Houston and Pittsburgh submitted their most recent rights payments to their MLB clubs in a timely fashion, although the disbursements were not commensurate with the contracted rates,” said Anthony Crupi of Sportico.
While fans of the Pirates have grown frustrated over the years by the Pirates’ lack of winning and the owner’s lack of spending, the television viewership is still relatively strong, according to Crupi.
“While the Pirates have finished last in the NL Central in each of the last four seasons, the team’s home RSN still manages to deliver solid numbers, thanks to the local loyalists. Pittsburgh’s channel is also the biggest per-capita earner among the three AT&T RSNs, raking in an average monthly affiliate fee of nearly $4.50 per subscriber.”
For now, broadcasts are expected to continue as usual, but there is clearly a level of concern with the partnership.
For the league as a whole, this news is especially unfortunate considering that Bally Sports, an even larger television network for MLB Teams, appears to be heading for bankruptcy.
This situation will continued to be monitored as events continue to unfold.