Q. The NHL season is starting tonight and Hulu still doesn’t carry the Fox sports channels that Sinclair owns. Is there any progress in these negotiations? What are the companies saying about the blackout? Do they think it will end today before the season starts? — Nate, Pontiac, Michigan.
Nate, Dish, and four of the top five live streaming services, Hulu, Sling TV, YouTube TV and FuboTV, last year lost the 21 Fox-named regional sports networks because they could not reach new carriage agreements with their owner, Sinclair Broadcasting. The blackouts have angered sports fans, particularly with the NBA’s 2020-21 season underway and the 2020-21 NHL season dropping puck tonight. (The Sinclair RSNs have the exclusive broadcast rights to NBA, NHL and MLB teams in their respective regions.)
Since these disputes began in 2020, I thought it was unlikely they would be settled until sometime in 2021, possibly shortly before the opening of the 2021 Major League Baseball season. But it would not be too surprising if one or more of the providers settled today since the NHL season is beginning; significant sporting events are often a trigger for carriage agreements and there’s no doubt that the new NHL season will put more pressure on Sinclair and the streamers to settle.
But that said, I don’t expect it to happen. Sorry.
You asked what the companies are saying about the disputes as we get closer to tonight’s action. I compiled the latest statements from all the participants, including the Fox Sports channels. You can read them below, but spoiler alert, they are not hopeful. (Note: The statements are from the companies’ Twitter customer service teams in response to questions from subscribers.)
“While we hope to be able to carry Fox Sports regional sports networks again in the future, we don’t have any updates related to these networks returning to Hulu + Live TV at this time. Rest assured we’ll share your feedback with the right teams.”
“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.”
Sling TV (Dish owns Sling):
“You can keep updated on any new channels being added to Sling at spr.ly/6017HXT9W. However, since we have been unable to come to an agreement with Sinclair we do not expect to have the FOX Sports regional channels available at this time.”
“At this point, we can’t speculate when or if any of the removed Sinclair stations will come back. If anything does change, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, you can submit your channel requests here: yt.be/help/Z88p”
“We don’t have any of the FOX Regional Sports Network currently. We do have NBCSN and NHL network for hockey games. You can check which games will be available in your area here bit.ly/38BijWW just punch in your zip code.”
Fox Sports channels owned by Sinclair:.
“@YouTubeTV touts they have live sports, but they raised your bill and dropped (your team’s) games on FOX Sports…Time to make the switch and get what you are paying for! AT&T TV is a great streaming option or visit for more information.” getmyhometeams.com
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— Phillip Swann