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NEW YORK (AP)Major League Baseball added three executives to its new local media department as it prepares for a possible takeover of broadcasts for 17 teams amid the financial deterioration of the Bally and AT&T SportsNet regional sports networks.

Doug Johnson was hired as senior vice president and executive producer of local media, Greg Pennell as senior vice president of local media and Kendall Burgess as vice president of local media technical operations, the commissioner’s office said Wednesday.

“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,” MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden said in a statement.

Diamond Sports Group, the subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group that operates networks under the name Bally Sports, has the rights to 14 major league teams and skipped about $140 million in interest payments due Feb. 15. Diamond said as of Sept. 30 it had debt of $8.674 billion. The company has nearly $1 billion in rights payments, mostly to baseball teams, due in the first quarter this year, and a bankruptcy filing is possible.

Diamond owns rights to the broadcasts for the 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.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s AT&T SportsNet networks told the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates last week that the companies do not have the money to make scheduled rights fee payments. The networks told the teams they have until March 31 to reclaim their broadcast rights and if there are not deals, the networks would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Billy Chambers, who had been Sinclair’s chief financial offer, started work on Feb. 1 with MLB in a new position as executive vice president for local media. The new hires will report to Chambers.

The 55-year-old Johnson, a 27-time Emmy Award winner, has been with AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh and will be responsible for MLB’s locally produced games. Pennell, 51, oversaw Bally Sports Regional Networks’ day-to-day financial operations. Burgess, 46, was vice president of technical operations for Bally Sports.

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