Major League Baseball Owners Eyeing Game Play in July

Major League Baseball owners May 11 approved a proposal to be sent to the players union that could see the national pastime resume play in July. Spring training could begin in June with the season boiled down to a 82- game regular-season.

Speaking earlier in the day on the virtual MoffettNathanson 7th Annual Media & Communications Summit, Chris Ripley, CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, said Major League Baseball would likely start in July with or without fans in attendance. Ripley said his comments were based on discussions with MLB executives.

“July has some potential for some of these leagues to start, or maybe August,” Ripley said, adding that without a coronavirus vaccine, he doubts professional sports would risk subjecting spectators to the virus.

“Are you really going to put 30,000 people into a building when there’s no vaccine yet?,” he said.

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The German pro soccer Bundesliga last week announced it would resume the remaining nine weekends of its season on May 16 — the first sports league to do so.

Sinclair, which operates the second-largest collection of sports TV channels in the country, this year is partnering with the Chicago Cubs for the debut of the Marquee Sports Network, a regional sports pay-TV platform that includes an over-the-top element. The channel is similar to the New York Yankees’ YES Network and Los Angeles Dodgers’ Spectrum SportsNet LA.

With pay-TV operators continuing to charge subscribers for sports networks devoid of sports content, there is increasing regulatory concern among some states that consumers are getting ripped off.

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New York State Attorney General Letitia James last month called on seven major cable and satellite TV providers operating in New York to provide financial relief for consumers amidst the pandemic by reducing or eliminating fees attributable to live sports programming.

Ripley said there is some discussion about offering rebates to distributors for non-broadcast games.

“We’re doing a lot of research into that,” he said. “There are more sports fans outside the bundle than you may think.”

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