Q. I want my Fox Sports San Diego channel back and my Padres. Is there any chance that the sale of Fox Sports channels to Sinclair will end this thing once and for all? — Don, La Jolla, California.
Well, there’s a chance, as the saying goes, but not much of one. Before I explain, a little background on the dispute.
On July 26, both Dish and its live streaming service, Sling TV, lost 22 different Fox Sports regional channels (including your Fox Sports San Diego, which carries the San Diego Padres games) due to a disagreement over how much they should pay to carry them.
The blackout has been fairly uneventful with the exception of some choice remarks from Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen who suggested Dish and Sling may never carry the regional channels again. (I don’t believe he’s being truthful. To find out why, click here.) But last Friday, something did happen that has some people thinking a deal could suddenly be imminent.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group closed the purchase of 21 of the 22 regional channels (all but the Yes Network) from Disney.
(The Sinclair sale was announced in May, but it wasn’t finalized until Friday. Disney, by the way, was forced by the federal government to sell the channels as part of its purchase of Fox TV and film properties.)
With Sinclair now officially in charge, the company will move to end the Dish-Sling dispute as soon as possible, right?
Well, not exactly.
Sinclair would love to end the fee fight, but it can’t afford to lower its fees for the 21 regional channels. In fact, it’s even in a worse position to offer Dish a good deal than the previous management.
The industry will be watching very closely how Sinclair handles the Dish dispute. If the company gave Dish a break to trigger a quick settlement now, other pay TV providers would demand a similar fee reduction when their deals are up for renegotiation. So Sinclair has to take a hard line.
It also doesn’t help that Sinclair and Dish have a history, and not a particularly good one.
Sinclair, which also owns more than 100 local network affiliates, had to pull those channels from Dish’s lineup in 2015 when the two companies couldn’t reach a new carriage agreement. The blackout lasted less than 24 hours, but it shows the two sides may not easily find common ground.
No, Don, I will reiterate my prediction that the Dish-Fox Sports fight will last until September and maybe even October. To learn more about my prediction, click here.
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— Phillip Swann