Getty Images

Major League Baseball is expanding its newly formed local media department, announcing three new hires on Wednesday in Doug Johnson, Greg Pennell, and Kendall Burgess. Those appointments come as MLB continues to prepare for the possibility that Diamond Sports Group, which operates several regional sports networks (RSNs), will fail to make more than $1 billion in payments for the local broadcast rights to 14 clubs' games. Diamond Sports Group is, of course, a subsidiary of the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

"What we do is largely dependent on how Diamond and the creditors play their cards, what they decide to do," Manfred recently told the Associated Press. "Our No. 1 goal in terms of preparations is that if for some reason Diamond isn't broadcasting, that we want to be in a position to make sure our fans are going to get their games."

Johnson, MLB's new Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of Local Media, had previously worked at AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. Both Pennell (Senior Vice President) and Burgess (Vice President of Local Media Technical Operations) worked for Bally Sports. All will work under Billy Chambers, Sinclair's former chief financial officer, who started at MLB on Feb. 1 to head up the Local Media department.

"These new hires are an important step in our preparation to address the changing landscape of MLB game distribution in light of the increasing challenges and pressure facing regional sports networks," Noah Garden, MLB Chief Revenue Officer, said in a press release. "The decades of experience and expertise in game production and operations that Doug, Greg, and Kendall bring to Major League Baseball reinforces our commitment to deliver the highest quality game telecasts to our fans."

It's unclear what a post-Diamond TV landscape could look like, but the league's local media department could hint that MLB is prepared to take over and centralize broadcasts, then redistribute them, if necessary. With the MLB.TV streaming package, blackouts have remained an issue for viewing. Local TV rights also provide a significant revenue stream for teams.

Fourteen teams would be impacted by Diamond's failure to broadcast local games: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers.

Rob Mains of Baseball Prospectus summed up the impact on those teams by noting that the "teams affected will likely see their payments from Diamond delayed or reduced, very possibly both." Mains added that "it's unlikely there will be big changes to the way you view teams in local markets in 2023," though that changes could be on the way afterward. Still, Mains cautioned that while this isn't an "existential threat" to the league, it could result in smaller local market revenues.