Sinclair Broadcast Group's 21 regional sports networks (RSNs) received a facelift Wednesday. Former Fox Sports has officially rebranded as Bally Sports. The owners of the regional sports networks signed a strategic and longstanding enterprise-wide deal with the Bally's Corporation in November of last year. From the agreement, nineteen of Sinclair's 21 regional sports networks receive the Bally Sports logo while Fox Sports Tennessee and Carolinas become a part of what will be called Bally Sports South. The RSNs rebrand to Bally Sports is only the first of many initiatives we will see between the two powerhouse corporations in the near future.
A Quick History Lesson on the Regional Sports Networks
The Fox Sports' rebranding comes on the tail end of two long years of negotiations for Sinclair Broadcast Group. The media conglomerate purchased the RSNs from the Walt Disney Company for $20 million in 2019. Sinclair Broadcast Group seized the opportunity after the Department of Justice ordered The Disney Company to give up ownership of the RSNs to complete its acquisition of 21st Century Fox's film and television assets.
Today, those regional networks that fall under the new Bally Sports banner hold the local programming rights to 42 professional teams across the National Basketball Association (16), Major League Baseball (14), and the National Hockey League (12).
The Bally Sports rebranding is the biggest of its kind for the regional sports networks since they were acquired and named Fox Sports back in 1998.
Preparing to Become Bally Sports
Sinclair Broadcast Group was contractually allowed to use the Fox Sports brand name for a period of 18 months when they originally purchased the regional sports networks. During this time, Sinclair needed to find the right partner to become the face of the brand and then completely overhaul all branding aspects.
"Fox was eager for us to rebrand, but just from a practical perspective, it's no small feat when you're switching over all of the websites, apps, studios, and signage," Chris Ripley, president and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, said. "Also, in this case, we wanted to find a partner since we didn't have a brand ourselves in mind, and we wanted to create value out of the brand itself."
Sinclair Broadcast Group recently started airing their very own marketing campaign to promote the new regional sports networks. The campaign applauds the RSNs' play in delivering fans up-to-the-minute live sports programming. Sinclair's campaign also offered detailed sports content local fans could not get anywhere else in the media about their favorite local teams and players. The launch campaign to familiarize their local viewers about the new Bally Sports Network rebranding is the first campaign of many that Sinclair plans to use to promote the new networks. $10 million overall has been put aside this year for the marketing initiatives slated to assist in promoting the Sinclair-owned regional sports networks as Bally Sports.
"It will complement that spending with promotion on other Sinclair properties, including broadcast TV stations that overlap geographically with the sports networks, the Tennis Channel, the digital sports network Stadium, and the streaming service STIRR," Sinclair Broadcast Group Chief Marketing Officer John Zeigler shared with the Wall Street Journal. Zeigler added that "Sinclair will seek to mine its other assets to promote the new Bally Sports networks more than it did in their previous incarnations."
Sinclair's Big Day for Bally Sports
Sinclair Broadcast Media released its marketing campaign recently to gather excitement for its strategically-timed March 31st launch of the Bally Sports rebrand. The launch came only one day before this year's Major League Baseball season commenced. Sinclair celebrated the relaunch with "Bally Sports Big Opening Day" on Thursday. The day's events included 4.5 hours of programming across all of the networks featuring a look at different games and highlights from other sports.
With baseball season starting on April 1st and the NBA and NHL scheduled to play through May since both professional sports leagues suffered late starts to their seasons at the hands of the pandemic, Sinclair Broadcast Group could not have found a smarter and more timely moment in the year to launch the new Bally Sports Network. Traditionally, this was one of the regional sports networks' biggest months of the year, with the three professional sports annually overlapping for a few weeks. This extended overlap should prove very beneficial for Sinclair and its marketing efforts.
The Right Partnership to Fuel Both Businesses
Sinclair Broadcast Group and Bally's Corporation's agreement gives naming rights of the regional sports networks to Bally's for ten years. Bally's Corporation choosing to take on the deal's brand assignments and becoming the face of the networks came at an excellent time for Sinclair. They were looking for a partner who could benefit from putting their name on the networks. Sinclair Broadcast Group admittedly did not have a real strategy to personally brand the networks in a new way, so Bally's partnership made perfect sense.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, however, is not the only one benefitting from this partnership. Beyond the accelerated brand recognition they will receive with their name all over the nation's local sports programming, Bally will also own and manage 16 casinos in 11 states in the US by the end of this year. Most of these facilities live in states with legalized sports betting. Sports betting stands to play a big part in the Bally Sports rebrand's success as it will be of central focus within the new interactive home sports experience the Sinclair-Bally partnership plans to provide their viewers.
Digital Upgrades to Benefit Sinclair, Bally, and the Institution of Sports Betting
Technology is coming in handy to assist Sinclair in their interactive home sports experience pursuit. The new Bally Sports app is close to release. The branded application will allow subscribers to view games on their mobile devices. The app could provide even deeper coverage of the games with alternate camera angles to consider, more robust statistics, and extra information around sports betting for each game.
Though, Sinclair CMO John Ziegler said the second-screen experience would be about much more than just an outlet to facilitate the event's sports betting aspects.
"We want to create an experience that's linked to the broadcast or to the stream because that's where you really unlock the potential of a 360 degree kind of experience, and you're more engaged in the game," Ziegler said.
Yet, Sinclair Broadcast Group hopes to see the bulk of its gains from the advancements provided by the application's digital assets and offerings. And as more and more states sign sports betting into law, the demand for digital integration between the sport and the gambling or gamification aspects of the events will continue to increase. The Bally Sports App allows Sinclair Broadcast Group the platform to pioneer these integrations and benefit accordingly.
The Bigger Partnership of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Bally Corporation
The creation of Bally Sports and Sinclair Broadcast Group's partnership with Bally's brings a new level of excitement to interactive sporting events and the media's progressive movement into a new 'gamification of sports' era. Yet, for Bally's corporation and Sinclair Broadcast Group, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few of the broader highlights of the enterprise-wide deal struck between the two corporations:
Bally's, with the Sinclair partnership and the earlier acquisition of Bet.Works positions itself to capture a significant portion of the expected future $50 billion U.S. sports betting and iGaming market opportunity, as reported by Wall Street analysts.
Bally's will blend content into the 190 television stations owned or run by Sinclair Broadcast Group. This blend allows both companies to add an entirely new revenue stream. Both companies will collaborate in designing and incorporating products on a state-by-state basis.
Over the 10-year term of the partnership, Sinclair Broadcast Group's regional sports network portfolio will receive annual naming rights fees and a dedicated percentage of Bally's Interactive marketing spend
Complete alignment with Sinclair receiving warrants and options, subject to regulatory consent and other conditions, to own a minority stake in Bally's.
Sinclair will receive penny warrants to claim 14.9% of Bally's common shares and warrants to purchase up to a total of an additional 10% of Bally's common shares contingent on the achievement of specific performance metrics. Sinclair Broadcast Group also receives options to purchase 5% of Bally's common shares in four tranches which Sinclair can use after four years.
Sinclair Broadcast Group Regional Sports Networks' Exciting Future
"Through our alliance with Bally's and others, the RSNs will create innovative experiences for sports fans when rooting for their favorite local sports teams," said Ripley. "The rebrand is the ideal first step as we further our efforts to thoroughly change the paradigm of the in-home sports experience, elevating how audiences view and interact with live sports content. We can't wait to roll out even more game-changing options for fans everywhere in the future."
Sinclair Broadcast Group and Bally's Corporation know they stand on the precipice of something that has the pure potential and likelihood of revolutionizing the way the world watches sports. The leaders of both corporations seem poised to play pioneering roles in that revolution.
Upon rebranding, the Sinclair-owned and operated RSN portfolio will now include the following 19 network brands: Bally Sports Arizona; Bally Sports Detroit; Bally Sports Florida; Bally Sports Great Lakes; Bally Sports Kansas City; Bally Sports Indiana; Bally Sports Midwest; Bally Sports New Orleans; Bally Sports North; Bally Sports Ohio; Bally Sports Oklahoma; Bally Sports San Diego; Bally Sports SoCal; Bally Sports South; Bally Sports Southeast; Bally Sports Southwest; Bally Sports Sun; Bally Sports West; and, Bally Sports Wisconsin.
About Sinclair Broadcast Group
Sinclair Broadcast Group is a diversified media company and leading provider of local sports and news. The Company owns and/or operates 21 regional sports network brands; owns, operates and/or provides services to 186 television stations in 87 markets; is a leading local news provider in the country; owns multiple national networks; and has TV stations affiliated with all the major broadcast networks. Sinclair delivers content via various platforms, including over-the-air, multi-channel video program distributors, and digital media. The Company regularly uses its website as a critical source of Company information you can access at www.sbgi.net.
About Bally Corporation
Bally's Corporation currently owns 11 casinos across seven states, a horse racetrack, and 13 authorized OTB licenses in Colorado. With approximately 6,000 employees, the Company's operations include 12,890 slot machines, 443 game tables, and 2,904 hotel rooms. Currently, Bally is completing acquisitions of several new assets, including Tropicana Evansville (Evansville, IN), Jumer's Casino & Hotel (Rock Island, IL), and MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa (Lake Tahoe, NV). Construction of a land-based casino near the Nittany Mall in State College, PA, is also near completion. In all, Bally's will own and manage 15 casinos across 11 states. Bally's also maintains a multi-year market access partnership with Elite Casino Resorts. It will provide mobile sports betting in Iowa and a temporary sports wagering permit to conduct online sports betting in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "BALY."