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Bally Needs To Rally If Baseball Is To Survive Another Generation

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Bally Is Making Baseball on TV Look Like This Pinball Machine


Thanks to the Who, or if you are a movie fan Elton John, the company gained notoriety a generation ago. Given the specialization of its products, the company would naturally appear in the hit “Pinball Wizard.”

“I thought I was the Bally Table king, but I just handed my pinball crown to him,” sings Roger Daltrey in the Who hit and Elton John in the version from the rock opera Tommy.

The Bally Corporation pushed all the right buttons in terms of gaming operations, moving from pinball to video games to gambling formats. Unfortunately, it has tilted in the other direction in terms of its new undertaking, regional sports networks.

Since Bally has taken over what used to be Sinclair Broadcasting's Fox Sports Networks, an entire generation of fans is missing out on baseball. Few streaming services offer the Bally stations, and even Dish Network has shunned the company.

Part of the blame should go squarely on the ever-shrinking shoulders of Major League Baseball, which continues to enforce outdated and incoherent black out policies. As things are going now there will be no need for black out regulations, for people will have completely lost interest in watching what once deemed itself America's pastime.

Nowhere has this lack of interest become more evident than in Cincinnati, which hosts the oldest professional team. The decline began prior to the 2019 season, when Hall of Fame radio announcer Marty Brenneman announced his retirement.

Fans who used to mute the television to listen to the Marty declined to tune in, deciding instead to hear son Thom Brenneman call the games on TV. When the latter was removed after making an on-air slur, many of those fans gave up on the boob tube as well.

Realizing the decline of its viewers and listeners, the Reds made still another change behind the mike for the 2021 season. Some fans might grow used to the new broadcasters, but they likely will not get the chance.

Bally Sports in Cincinnati can only be viewed through Spectrum cable or Direct TV, as Dish Network has for the past two years refused to pay the steep price to carry Bally. Few streaming services provide the Reds games, and those which do require high rates for what is a channel with limited offerings outside of baseball.

Even if Cincinnati fans without Spectrum cable fork over the $200 or so to receive the MLB Extra Innings package, they still cannot see the Reds. Because of the regional blackout rules, people in the Cincinnati market can watch neither home nor away games.

“Fans are willing to pay money to watch the games, so stop making it so they do not have that option,” wrote Doug Gray in a recent column on “So much of this stuff is how baseball has been operating for a while now – short term thinking about maximizing profits over long term games where the profit is a slower drip.”

Fans throughout the country are suffering similar problems, where MLB blacks out the team's games even though Bally Sports is unavailable on TV. It is difficult to sell your product on TV if no one can see it, and fewer people are able to easily access a baseball game today.

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Just last weekend this point was reinforced while having dinner with my son-in-law, who has always been a die hard baseball fan with loyalties split between the White Sox and Reds. He of course asked me about the Reds so far this year, and I told him the verdict was still out on whether former third baseman Eugenio Suarez could stick at shortstop.

“Wait, Suarez is playing shortstop?” he asked. “How are he and Mike Moustakas handling double plays?”

I explained Moustakas had moved from second to third, which should have by now have been common knowledge to baseball fans even outside of Cincinnati.

“I don't have cable and the streaming services we have do not offer the regional sports network,” he explained. “I haven't been able to watch a single Reds game this year.”

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