Q. I miss my local sports channel showing the Phoenix Suns games on Dish. Do you think this fight will end anytime soon? Is there anything new going on with the negotiations? I know the owner is having a similar fight with some of the streamers like YouTube TV. What’s the deal with this? — Lorenzo, Mesa, Arizona.
Lorenzo, as you know, Dish (and Sling TV) have been missing the 21 Sinclair-owned, Fox-named regional sports channels since July 26, 2019 due to a carriage dispute. Sinclair last year also blacked out the channels on the live streamers Fubo TV, Hulu Live and YouTube TV in separate fee fights.
Some analysts said last year that the live streamers would likely bring the channels back when the new NBA and NHL seasons began this winter. However, the NBA’s 2020-21 season began two weeks ago and the NHL season drops puck next week and there’s not even a hint of a settlement. (As longtime readers of the TV Answer Man know, I said the disputes would likely continue into 2021, which they have.)
The only thing that’s new in this debacle is the calendar, which is not insignificant. The fact that the live streamers did not cave when the NBA season began suggests the blackout could go on for several more weeks, or months. If the streamers (and Dish) are prepared to take the heat for not having the channels when the NBA starts, they are likely prepared to take it for weeks into the season as well.
The beginning of the MLB’s 2021 season, which could be April if Covid-19 cooperates, might encourage both sides to return to the negotiating table in March. But if Dish and the live streamers are still having trouble generating new subscribers (and, therefore, additional revenue), that might not matter. (Dish is actually more likely to settle when it has to renegotiate its contract with Sinclair for its 100 plus local channels. See this article for more information.)
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if we get more information. Until then, happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann