Q. You’ve been writing about when some of these channel blackouts will end. What about Dish and Fox Sports? When will we get our sports channels back? — Wayne, Phoenix.
Wayne, on July 26, both Dish and its live streaming service, Sling TV, lost 22 different Fox Sports regional channels (including your Fox Sports Arizona) due to a disagreement over how much they should pay Fox to carry them.
The Fox Sports regionals have the exclusive rights to carry the local broadcasts of dozens of professional teams. (You can see the list of affected channels here.) So the dispute has left many sports fans irate.
I wrote here last week that Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has suggested that his services may never carry the Fox sports channels again. Ergen says Fox, and other sports programmers, are demanding higher and higher fees and his company can no longer afford to pay them.
But I don’t believe Ergen is serious about that threat. The Dish executive has a history of saying his TV services may never carry a channel again during a carriage dispute. However, in nearly every case, the channel returns to the Dish (and Sling TV) lineups when the two sides find common ground.
In my analysis of the carriage battles between DIRECTV and CBS, and Nexstar, I noted here this week that it’s not likely that either will be resolved this month. August is a notoriously slow month in the television business as viewers squeeze in last-minute vacations before school resumes in September. Consequently, the pressure on both the programmer and pay TV provider is considerably less than what it would be during a traditionally high-viewing period, such as September.
Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said much the same yesterday in a conference call with financial analysts following the company’s release of its second quarter report. (Sinclair is in process of completing the purchase of the Fox Sports regional channels for $10.6 billion.)
“It’s certainly a time of year when there’s a lack of active programming on broadcast. So it’s a — there is a time — a good time to go dark. It’s certainly this time of year. That changes in short order here in a few weeks,” Ripley said, according to a transcript provided by Seeking Alpha.
So I think that talks between Dish and Fox Sports will heat up in early September, although a deal may not occur until later in the month or October when the NBA and NHL seasons begin.
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— Phillip Swann