Sinclair Broadcast Group on Wednesday unveiled the rebrand of its 19 Fox regional sports networks (RSNs) to Bally Sports. The rebrand swaps out Fox’s navy blue and block letters for bright Bally red and old-school cursive font, but keeps the RSNs’ locations, such as Midwest or Arizona, in place, thus Fox Sports Midwest becomes Bally Sports Midwest and so forth. The RSNs are home to 46 NBA, MLB and NHL teams.
The top-to-bottom rebrand includes everything from name to logo to graphics to set design and in-stadium signage in what amounted to a massive effort, executed during the pandemic.
The change also includes the evolution of the RSNs from just linear sports networks to fan-focused, multi-platform experiences that include interactive gamification and, ultimately, sports betting in states where it is legal.
On March 31, the Fox Sports Go app will automatically rollover to Bally Sports, which will be available on Apple and Android devices. At some point in the future, the app will allow fans to place live bets, but for now, it will offer interactive gamification for prizes. Whatever revenue the app generates—and it’s likely to be hundreds of millions of dollars—goes to Bally, but Sinclair expects to benefit from the engagement, including viewership and interactivity, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley told Multichannel News’ Jon Lafayette in February.
“All of the research points to a dramatic increase in engagement for people who do sports betting. Those who bet on sports are going to watch more sports at some staggeringly high number. If you’re a sports bettor, there’s a 97% probability you’re watching that event,” Ripley said. “The other great thing about sports betting, and I believe it’s true about gamification, is that it really skews young. So with 18-to-34-year-olds, about 60% are interested in sports betting or already doing it. If it became easy and it was on their phone and it was legal, that’s a huge number. We think that is a reflection of the video-game generation.”
On April 1, Bally Sports will launch with a loud splash with a four-and-a-half-hour live whip-around pre-show called Bally Sports Big Opening Day, strategically timed to baseball’s Opening Day. The show will air in all 19 RSN markets and originate out of Chicago, hosted by Michael Kim, Kristina Pink and Eric Collins, who will constantly be throwing to other markets.
Prior to the switch, Sinclair started running banners across programming in all of its regional sports markets, as well as on its local TV stations in those markets and on the Tennis Channel, informing viewers that these channels will change over to Bally Sports Network on March 31.
“We’re sharing content across Sinclair stations. There’s huge synergy that we’re going to have,” said Dana Feldman, SVP, promotions at Sinclair Broadcast Group and Promax board member. “There are many crossover markets where we have the broadcast stations and the RSNs, and we can cross-promote across all of our stations.”
Behind the scenes, the team has been changing over the brand at all 19 RSNs, which has included 64 desks, in-studio sets, 500 pieces of hard creative and signage, and thousands and thousands of assets.
“Typically when you’re redesigning a newsroom or a studio, you are doing one at a time or one a year. The team at the RSNs did 19 at once,” said Feldman. “Bally’s VP of production, Laura Mickelson, says it’s like renovating your house with all custom finishes in addition to renovating houses in 18 other neighborhoods.”
To complete the rebrand, Mickelson partnered with Big Creative Productions’ Jesse Medeiros and worked in collaboration with the Sinclair Scenic Group. Other vendors who specialize in sports and entertainment scenic production also were brought on board. These include IDF Studios, Filmwerks, Scenic Solutions, ExhibitEase, Paramount, SouthWest Scenic, Rush River, Propmasters and Florida Lighting, providing LED solutions. Working over five weeks, the 50-person team moved, built, printed and installed logos, branding and set pieces across the 19 markets.
Sinclair is spending close to $10 million on out-of-home advertising announcing the switch.
“It’s a big media spend plus what we’re doing on our own platforms both on and off of Sinclair’s own air,” Feldman said.
Sinclair acquired the RSNs from Disney-owned Fox in August 2019, (as well as New York’s YES Network and Chicago’s Marquee Sports, neither of which will be rebranded) after Disney was required to divest them when it bought most of the film and television assets of Twentieth Century Fox. Not included in that acquisition were the Fox broadcast network, Fox News, Fox Sports and the Fox Television Stations, all of which remain with Fox, and the RSNs, which the Justice Department’s antitrust division mandated be sold.
Sinclair announced the branding partnership with Bally’s Corp., formerly Twin River Worldwide Holdings, in February. Twin River acquired the branding rights to the Bally’s name from Caesars Entertainment for $25 million in October 2020 and renamed the company Bally’s Corp. in November 2020. Hedge fund Standard General, operated by Soo Kim, controls 38% of the renamed Ballys, which owns 15 casinos across 11 states, including pending acquisitions. It has an enterprise value of $3.1 billion and a market cap of $2.1 billion.