How do RSNs and sports broadcasting rights work?

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How do RSNs and sports broadcasting rights work?

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Anonymous 0 Comments

A regional sports network will make a contract with an individual team in MLB, NHL, or NBA to have exclusive rights to show all non-network games to a designated geographical area. In some cases depending on the sport a nationally televised game is allowed to co-exist with an RSN broadcast. For example, baseball games on ESPN are exclusive and cannot be shown by an RSN, while TBS games are not exclusive and can be shown by an RSN.

The “designated geographical area” part is the major reason why you see blackouts, as the RSN takes priority over any streaming service for the right to show the game in the designated area. The designated areas are different for each league. For example, while the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars have the rights to broadcast in Oklahoma via Bally Sports Southwest, the Mavericks are not broadcast in Oklahoma because that is the territory of the Thunder.

Some regions may be “claimed” by multiple teams. The most infamous example is Iowa, where six different teams claim Iowa as their territory even though not one cable company carries all six channels for the claiming teams. If you have satellite or a streaming service that carries RSNs, you do have access to both. However, [MLB.TV](http://MLB.TV) subscribers in Iowa cannot see *any* game involving the Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Twins, Royals, and Cardinals.

For playoffs, baseball is only available nationally, there are no RSN games. For NHL and NBA, first round playoff games coexist with the national broadcaster, but all other rounds are exclusive to the network.

Anonymous 0 Comments

For RSNs:

Sports teams get to negotiate their own LOCAL rights. National rights for the league are a separate thing, negotiated by the league directly.

The team will negotiate with a channel… usually their longstanding local RSN, though occasionally a new RSN or channel will compete. The RSN will pay the team some amount of dollars for an amount of games. This amount will usually be a bit less than the teams total game as some games will be on national and not local. These rights can get very very expensive, especially in large media markets, like LA.

The RSN now owns the *exclusive* right to broadcast the team’s game in the local area ONLY. Just there, and absolutely no one else can broadcast that same game in the local area (very rare exceptions apply). How the local area is defined can get pretty complicated, but generally its decided by county and/or zip codes and is roughly in the teams geographic area. As local areas can get weird sometimes, occasionally you have areas that may have multiple RSNs for different teams, even in areas you might not suspect is their local area. Or parts of different local areas that have some overlap of more than 1 RSN, but other parts don’t overlap.

Now the RSN then makes a deal with their local cable/sat/streaming TV provider. This is called a TV distribution deal (also cable deal or a carriage deal / carriage agreement). The TV provider, meaning your cable company, will then pay the RSN a set fee per month based on how many subscribers the RSN has on their service. Generally these deals are pretty complex and, among other things, will require the cable company to have at least X% of customers in the area get the channel (this percentage can often be fairly high! like 70-80%+). This essentially guarantees the RSN a certain minimum amount of money each month from their local cable provider.

That RSN paid a TON of money for the sports rights to their local team and they need to recoup their investment, and they do that a lot in their cable deal, along with running ads.

RSN costs are generally passed on to the consumer and are quite high. A cable company getting charged $5/month per subscriber for an RSN is normal (even in the offseason! the charge is there regardless). RSNs are a very significant part of many cable packages costs that the consumer sees