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Amazon has invested in television networks that broadcast Major League sports in some of the largest U.S. media markets and is expanding its live game footprint to regional networks that carry most NBA, NHL and MLB games.
The e-commerce giant said Wednesday it has agreed to a $115 million minority investment in Diamond Sports Group, the largest so-called regional sports network in the U.S. as it seeks to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
The deal will allow Amazon's Prime Video to stream programming from half of all MLB, NBA and NHL teams in North America, increasing the technology group's competition with Apple, Google and others for live sports.
The investment is part of Diamond's new restructuring agreement, which will allow Diamond to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and potentially lead to three of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues. Media rights crisis can be avoided.
Diamond said in a statement that Prime Video “will become Diamond's primary partner through which customers will be able to purchase direct-to-consumer access to stream their local Diamond channels.” Diamond said pricing and the availability of local sports on Prime Video will be announced at a later date.
Amazon first entered the live sports market in 2017 when it acquired the rights to stream Thursday night games of the US National Football League. It then expanded its global soccer rights in Europe and North America.
Diamond was acquired from Disney by Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2019 for $10.6 billion, including debt. Challenges to the company's business followed, including the shortening of professional sports seasons at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and a widespread shift by consumers to cancel cable TV. Due to subscriptions that prioritized streaming platforms, Diamond was unable to repay approximately $9 billion in debt before filing for bankruptcy in March 2023.
The group's fate has been closely watched by many in the sports world, which relies heavily on broadcast rights fees as a source of income. The bankruptcy proceedings sparked a splinter movement among some team owners, including the Phoenix Suns' Matt Ishbia, to move games from the Diamond-owned network to free-to-air channels.
Late last year, billionaire Mark Cuban cited media rights as a factor in his decision to sell a majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks basketball franchise to the family of late casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. He cited his own desire to break free from his addiction.
As part of Diamond's restructuring agreement and subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Texas, Sinclair will pay Diamond $495 million in cash and continue to provide management and support services during the transition period. Some of Diamond's debtors have agreed to provide $450 million in loans against their outstanding debt to propel the company forward and emerge as a going concern.