Bally Sports Detroit is launching a direct-to-consumer streaming service that will give Detroit sports fans access to Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons game broadcasts without needing a cable subscription.
The service, Bally Sports+, will launch Thursday, and will mirror the content available on the linear service.
The cost will be $19.99 a month; fans who sign up for a year get 21% off, at $189. Bally Sports will offer a seven-day free trial in targeting cord cutters amid the rising costs of traditional cable as well as those with cable or streaming packages that don’t carry Bally Sports Detroit.
“For those fans that currently don’t have an option to watch Tigers, Wings or Pistons due to whoever their provider is not carrying Bally Sports Detroit, they’re going to have an option come Thursday,” said Greg Hammaren, senior vice president and general manager for Bally Sports Detroit.
“We tried to take our time to build it right, and hopefully it will be a good experience.”
The game broadcasts on Bally Sports+ will not be subject to blackouts. The subscription service is only available to customers within the Bally Sports Detroit footprint. Fans outside the footprint, or out of state, can access Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons games via the respective league’s service, MLB Extra Innings, NHL Center Ice and NBA League Pass.
Bally Sports Detroit is one of five markets that will participate in the company’s soft launch this week, along with regional-sports networks that air the Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers.
Sinclair Broadcast Group owns 19 regional-sports networks, including Bally Sports Detroit, across the United States, purchasing them from Disney in 2019 for $10.6 billion. The Bally Sports+ subscription will include Bally Sports Detroit coverage, not content from other regional-sports networks.
Hammaren, in an interview with The News on Monday, said while the content on the streaming app will initially mirror what’s available on linear TV, the plan long-term is to provide additional content.
“We anticipate that down the road, absolutely, adding some unique specific content knowing that the subscriber is probably a slightly different customer, younger and more tech-savvy,” he said.
Detroit sports fans with cable packages that offer Bally Sports Detroit have been able to stream the content, though that’s caused an issue in itself since the transition from Fox Sports Detroit in May 2021.
The streaming of Bally Sports Detroit, on computers, phones and TVs, has been quite unreliable.
Hammaren acknowledged the frustration, and said the company continues to work out the kinks. He said there are fewer issues today than when the transition took place, but bugs still exist — and could still be problematic early in the launch of Bally Sports+.
“That’s a fair question. We’ve had issues that are unacceptable to us,” Hammaren said. “This has been a long time coming, and part of that is trying to shore up the technical infrastructure of the app. This is an introductory phase, there’s not a lot of heavy marketing, because we do want to discover the bugs that we haven’t found and work through any issues before we do a full product launch prior to the NBA and NHL.
“There’s constant progress. We have a dedicated team trying to work through all the tickets that we find. We are constantly trying to improve the service, because it’s not acceptable to us, and we are committed to providing people the best experience possible.”
Hammaren said Bally Sports Detroit has a team of about 50 agents taking phone calls, answering emails and monitoring social media for technical problems. Viewers can submit issues at help.ballysports.com.
The first Tigers game available on Bally Sports+ will be Saturday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Tigers are off Thursday, launch day, and Friday’s Detroit-Arizona game is to be broadcast on Apple TV.