Q. We have not had our regional sports channel, Fox Sports North, now for more than a year because we have Dish and they are fighting with the owner. Is there anything new with this fight? Are they even talking about trying to fix it? — Megan, St. Paul.
Megan, Dish has been missing the Fox regional sports channels, which are owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, since July 2019 when their carriage pact expired. In the nearly 18 months since, there have been occasional hints of hope that the two sides were amenable to a settlement. But nothing has occurred to suggest a deal is imminent.
It appears that nothing will change here until Dish’s contract to carry Sinclair’s 100+ local network affiliates ends. The satcaster would lose a significant number of subscribers if it lost the Sinclair locals and it’s likely that the broadcaster would force Dish to carry the regional sports channels as well as the locals.
In fact, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley reiterated that stance this week in a conference call with financial analysts following the company’s release of its third quarter report.
“We have been very successful in negotiating package deals for all of our programming with all the traditional (cable and satellite operators),” Ripley said. “And so I’d expect this to continue that strategy with DISH.”
It has been unclear when Dish’s contract to carry the Sinclair locals will expire. But there was a suggestion in that conference call that it might be next year rather in the remaining two months of 2020. The good news here for Dish sports fans is that the new NBA and NHL seasons are expected to begin in early 2021 and the MLB 2021 season will start in April. With the three professional sports leagues in action in early 2021, Dish might be more inclined to add the Sinclair regional sports channels. (The RSNs have the regional TV rights to live games from the three leagues.)
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if we get more information.
Megan, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann