David Preschlack, a former NBC Sports executive who oversaw its regional sports networks and previously had a 20-year run at Disney and ESPN, has been named CEO of the financially challenged Diamond Sports Group.
A subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which led the purchase of the formerly Fox-branded RSNs now operated under the Bally’s name, Diamond has faced a grueling couple of years amid cord-cutting and Covid. The sports outfit, which owns and operates 19 RSNs along with a joint venture with the Chicago Cubs in Marquee and a minority interest in the YES Network, recently took a non-cash impairment charge of $1 billion in the third quarter. In that same period, on September 26, it launched the Bally Sports+ subscription streaming offering nationwide, aiming for the $20-a-month service to help offset the secular decline of pay-TV subscribers.
Sinclair earlier this year retained financial advisors LionTree and Moelis & Co. to explore opportunities for Diamond, including potentially taking on investments from the sports leagues from which they have traditionally licensed rights. Those rights negotiations have become more fraught for both national and regional programmers as the costs continue to escalate, with viewership heading the opposite direction, apart from a number of baseball teams still managing healthy traditional tune-in.
Preschlack was most recently president of NBC Sports Regional Networks & Executive Vice President of Content Strategy for the NBC Sports Group. He also joined Diamond’s board of managers several months ago as the company was emerging from Covid, which caused disruptions to the company’s finances with game cancellations and postponements in 2020 and 2021.
Former Fox Sports exec and Hulu CEO Randy Freer, who is chairman of Diamond’s board of managers, described Preschlack as “the ideal person” to lead the company. He “possesses a unique combination of deep sports broadcasting expertise, sound business judgment, and a track record of successfully managing relationships with major sports leagues and multichannel video programming distributors that will be invaluable as we work to realize the full potential of DSG’s Bally Sports Networks.”
Preschlack said Diamond is “uniquely situated to create a differentiated and truly integrated regional sports offering that puts fans first by delivering live local sports in an immersive engagement environment, and I am honored to step into the role of CEO at this important moment.” In his initial months in his role, he added, his focus will be on “fostering and strengthening the relationships with our league partners and addressing the company’s legacy financial issues, including strengthening our balance sheet, so that we can position Diamond to drive long-term, sustainable value for our stakeholders.”
Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley, who is also a member of Diamond’s board of managers, noted steps his company has taken throughout the year that will enable Diamond to “establish its independence moving forward under David’s leadership.” Management services provided by Sinclair to Diamond are not affected by the CEO hire or any related moves, he noted.
Before joining NBC Sports, Preschlack capped a 20-year tenure at Disney and ESPN by serving as EVP of the company’s affiliate sales and marketing group. In that role, he managed oversight of content distributed to MVPDs, which has become an increasingly complex process during the streaming era.