Q. Baseball season is less than three weeks away and Dish still doesn’t have my favorite team in my lineup. Will this thing end before opening day? If not, I am done with Dish and I will get a new TV company!! — Teresa, Phoenix.
Teresa, as you know, Dish has been missing the 22 Fox-branded regional sports networks since last July when it could not reach a new carriage agreement with their then owner, Disney. (After the dispute began, Disney, as expected, sold the channels to Sinclair Broadcasting.)
I have received numerous e-mails from Dish subscribers over the months asking when this fee fight would end. However, the e-mails have increased in volume and intensity in the last few weeks after both Dish and Sinclair seemed to open the door for a possible settlement.
Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen noted last month in a conference call that his satellite TV service would soon begin negotiations for Sinclair’s 100 plus local stations. (It’s unclear when the current pact ends, but it could be as early as this summer.) He suggested the regional sports channels could be part of a new agreement.
Sinclair executives later echoed Ergen’s remarks and added that it was inevitable that the companies would reach a settlement.
But even if a deal is ‘inevitable,’ will it come as early as MLB’s opening day, which is March 26. (The Fox regional sports channels, and Yes Network, have the broadcast rights to roughly 20 MLB teams.)
I wish I could be more optimistic, but the likely answer is no. The Dish-Sinclair negotiations will be complicated with both sides having to work out their differences on both the sports channels and the local channels. That makes it unlikely they could reach a new deal so soon.
In addition, the current agreement for the local channels is not expected to expire until sometime this summer so Dish is under little pressure to fasttrack the negotiations. While the satcaster would like to have Sinclair’s sports channels back, the local channels are the must-haves. Numerous subscribers might leave if they lose their local channels, but only a small number of sports fans would defect if they don’t get their regional sports channel back. (And if they were going to defect, they probably would have already done so. The sports channels have been gone for more than seven months.)
So, Teresa, I am optimistic that Dish and Sinclair will settle this year. But I can’t hold out hope for an opening day surprise.
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