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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media — comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Contact John at

Reds TV changes could come by end of this week

Reds fans have lots of questions, but little is known about when and where Reds games could move if TV rights revert back to the team from Bally Sports Ohio.

By Saturday, Reds fans could see the team play on another channel — but details of where and what the Reds telecasts would look like remains secret.

If Diamond Sports Group — which operates Reds TV carrier Bally Sports Ohio — does not pay the club its rights fees when a 15-day grace period ends this week, Reds games telecasts could move to a different channel by Saturday, May 6, according to the Sports Business Journal.

"We are actively monitoring the situation and waiting to see how things play out between the Reds and Bally," says Josh Pichler, Altafiber senior manager of communications and media relations.

"We remain in close contact with MLB to maintain uninterrupted availability of games and for updates, including carrying the games on another channel in the event the Reds get their rights back starting May 6," Pichler says.

What channel? And will the Reds games, with adjacent pregame and postgame shows, be the only programming on the Reds' new channel?

Or will the channel otherwise be filled with programming from MLB Network, or with a simulcast of the current MLB Network channel?

When I emailed those questions to Karen Forgus, Reds senior vice president of business operations, she replied, "Nothing much to report at this time." She promised "to be in touch should there be any changes to report."

Forgus told the Cincinnati Business Courier last month that "the commissioner's office has been on top of this matter for more than a year. Based on our conversations with the league office, we are confident with their preparation, strategy, and in the staff handling the situation. We have been assured that no matter how this situation progresses, Major League Baseball stands ready to make our games available to fans."

Most of what we know about how the Reds telecasts would change — and what would remain the same — has come from John Ourand's April 17 Sports Business Journal story headlined, "Cincy—Ground Zero for MLB's RSN fight."(RSN stands for regional sports networks, like Bally Sports Ohio.)

He noted that the Cincinnati contract is not part of the bankruptcy filing because the Reds have an equity stake in its regional sports network. A piece of Fox Sports Ohio (now Bally Sports Ohio) was part of the club's 15-year contract extension that goes through the 2032 season, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported in 2016.

According to Ourand:

— Major League Baseball, which produces games for the MLB Network channel and streams games through MLB.TV, would take over production. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred pledged during spring training, when news broke about the Diamond Sports Group money problems, that MLB would "be in a position to step in. Our goal would be to make games available not only within the traditional cable bundle but on the digital side, as well," according to the Associated Press.

— The change is expected to take place during the Reds homestand this weekend with the Chicago White Sox. After Friday's 6:40 p.m. game exclusively on Apple TV+, the 6:40 Saturday game could be the first produced by MLB.

— Announcers John Sadak, Barry Larkin, Chris Welsh, Jim Day and others would remain in place, since they are employed by the Reds.

— The games would move from the Bally Sports Ohio channel to different channel. Ourand says that "MLB has handshake agreements with distributors like DirecTV and Spectrum Cable" to continue carrying the game. (The local spokesman for Spectrum didn't want to comment for this story.)

MLB plans to use many of the same Reds' camera crew, staff and trucks that currently work on the games for Bally Sports Ohio. That's because most of those staffers are freelancers, and Mobile TV Group owns the trucks, sources told Ourand.

— It is not known how the graphics, pitch count box or other on screen text will look different without Bally's involvement and branding.

— How soon could MLB offer in-market streaming for Reds games? MLB produces games for its MLB Network cable channel and its MLB.TV streaming services. For now, MLB has offered only out-of-market streaming here to protect rights holder Bally Sports' Reds telecasts on regional cable systems.

Forbes says MLB could lift the local black-out policy and offer in-market streaming for a higher price. MLB's blackout policy for local games is MLB's "No. 1 customer complaint," Forbes says.

One last question: How much was Diamond Sports Group/Bally Sports Ohio contractually obligated to pay the Reds for TV rights? That figure — which impacts the Reds payroll — has never been disclosed. The Business Courier says that "industry experts have estimated the contract pays the Reds $50 million to $60 million a year." When the 15-year extension was announced in 2016, the Enquirer reported that the expiring deal "has guaranteed them (the Reds) $30 million a year since 2007."

Fans have lots of questions. They may get some answers by the end of the week.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.