Q. I am a Dish customer and I am very angry that it has not had my Atlanta Braves on for a long, long time. They took the Fox Sports channel (Fox South) away. And now I read that Cox Cable just got a new deal with Fox Sports. How can Cox get a deal with Fox Sports, but not Dish? That doesn’t seem fair! — Norm, Atlanta.
Norm, on July 26, both Dish and its live streaming service, Sling TV, lost 22 different Fox Sports regional channels (including your Fox Sports South, which carries the Atlanta Braves games) 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, such as yourself, irate.
But you ask why Cox was able to land a carriage agreement with Fox Sports, but not Dish and Sling?
(Cox and Fox Sports today announced a new multi-year agreement for the cable operator to carry 15 different Fox regional sports channels, avoiding any blackout. Cox only has cable systems in the markets covered by those 15 regionals.)
Well, there are two differences between Cox and Dish.
First, Dish and Sling combined have roughly 12 million video customers, considerably more than Cox which has around four million. That means Dish would have to pay Fox Sports a lot more money to carry the regional channels. Carriage fees are based on the number of subscribers who are able to watch the channel, and Dish combined with Sling have roughly three times the number of subs than Cox.
You could argue that Dish generates more revenue than Cox, and that it does. But thanks to the increase in cord-cutting, every pay TV company these days is taking a hard look at its expenditures and is trying to cut costs where it can.
Second, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen is notorious for playing hardball with programmers of all kinds. He’s more willing than most to accept some subscriber defections due to the temporary loss of programming if it means significant cost savings down the road. (Dish is also saving money now by simply not carrying the Fox Sports channels because they don’t have to pay during the blackout period.)
So that’s why Cox got a deal today, and Dish and Sling customers are still without their favorite local sports teams.
When will the blackout end? You can read my prediction here.
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— Phillip Swann