Q. I’m getting concerned that Sling TV won’t have the NFL Network this season. Is there any chance that a deal will get done before the season starts? If not, I’m definitely switching to YouTube TV! — Pete, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Pete, as you may know, Sling TV lost both the NFL Network and the NFL RedZone Channel in June due to a carriage dispute with their owner, the National Football League. The battle, which also includes Dish, which owns Sling TV, is over how much they should pay the league to carry the two channels.
The pressure on Dish and Sling to make a deal increased yesterday with news that YouTube TV, a live streaming rival, added both the NFL Network and the Red Zone Channel. Many sports fans looking for a streaming alternative may now turn to YouTube TV, although its base price ($64.99) is more than double than Sling’s ($30 a month).
Dish and Sling were already feeling the heat with the NFL regular season starting just six days from now with a Thursday night matchup between Kansas City and Houston.
So what’s the latest here? Is this carriage dispute close to an end?
The NFL has not commented on the fee fight in weeks. But the Twitter customer service teams for Dish and Sling TV have voiced optimism for an agreement before the season begins. This is in contrast to their forecast for a deal with Sinclair for its Fox-branded regional sports channels. (Dish and Sling have been without the Fox sports channels for more than a year in a separate fight.)
“Our goal is for you to not miss any of the season, so we are working with the NFL to bring their channels back as fast as possible,” Dish told one complaining customer this week. “We don’t know if FOX Regional Sports Channels will return, however, we remain open to a fair agreement with Sinclair, the owner of these channels, to carry their programming for our customers.”
Normally you have to take a response from customer service with a grain of salt, if not something heavier. They are trained to be positive to keep subscribers from defecting. But the fact that it’s openly negative about Sinclair and positive about the NFL offers some hope for the latter. Perhaps they are offering an honest assessment.
Our goal is for you to not miss any of the season, so we are working with the NFL to bring their channels back as fast as possible. We are very hopeful to have these channels back before the start of the season.
— DISH Answers (@dish_answers) September 4, 2020
Hello Mike! I understand these channels are important! We are still working with the NFL to bring their channels back before the start of the season. For any updates, please click here: https://t.co/cOkgSe40lG -FG
— Sling Answers (@slinganswers) September 4, 2020
Still, many Dish and Sling subscribers are skeptical, noting that Dish’s management frequently triggers long-term channel blackouts by playing hardball in negotiations. Dish and Sling are now involved in six different carriage disputes, including ones with HBO, the NFL, Sinclair and Scripps.
@dish Thank you for not having NFL network now that football season has started,also you don't have NBC network or most of the Fox Sports networks for over a year now too..I'm sorry I renewed my contract with you.NEVER AGAIN
— Bob Zelenka (@_TheAceOfSpades) September 2, 2020
There are some pay TV providers that would have succumbed to subscriber pressure by now and added the NFL Network. But Dish and Sling? They play by different rules.
So we’ll see. The TV Answer Man will carefully monitor this situation and report back here if I see any changes.
Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann