Q. I cut the cord a few years ago, but I am a sports fan and it seems like it’s become impossible to watch the games I want to. Whether it’s YouTube TV or Hulu or Sling, they all are dropping sports channels. I don’t want to go back to cable or satellite, but is there anyway to watch my games? — Ted, Studio City, California.
Ted, your lament is shared by millions of sports fans who have cut the cord, or were planning to. YouTube, Hulu Live, Sling TV and FuboTV do not carry the Sinclair-owned 21 Fox regional sports channels due to carriage disputes. You also won’t find other regional sports channels in their lineups, such as SportsNet LA, Altitude, MASN or Marquee Sports Network.
The live streaming services have decided, at least for now, that it doesn’t make economic sense to carry them. The carriage fees are relatively high by industry standards, but the interest is relatively small among subscribers. (Not everyone is a die-hard sports fan, Ted.) The streamers try to keep their monthly subscription fees lower than cable and satellite, but they would have more difficulty doing that if they added the sports channels.
This is why AT&T TV, which just merged its service with its sister streamer, AT&T TV Now, is the last hope for cord-cutters who want to watch their home teams. AT&T TV, which can be viewed over an AT&T set-top, or an app, has every regional sports channel you can think of.
Altitude (Nuggets, Avalanche), MASN (Orioles and Nationals), AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh (Pirates, Penguins ) Root Sports Northwest (Mariners), AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (Rockies), SportsNet LA (Dodgers), the 21 Sinclair regionals, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Astros), NESN (Red Sox), Yes Network (Yankees), NBC Sports regionals, and the Marquee Sports Network (Cubs).
They are all there on AT&T TV.
You can’t find many cable or satellite TV services that carry so many regional sports channels.
But it will cost you. AT&T TV’s plans that include regional sports channels start at $84.99 a month, which is roughly $20 more per month than Hulu Live, YouTube TV and FuboTV. Obviously, AT&T is paying the price to carry the regionals and passing it along to sports fans.
But the good news is that there’s no regional sports fee. Plus, AT&T TV did away with its two-year contract requirement. If you want to cancel the service at anytime, you won’t have to pay a termination penalty.
Bottom line: AT&T TV is still cheaper, and with less strings attached, than most cable and satellite TV services. But the fact that you have to pay $85 a month to continue enjoying sports after you ‘cut the cord’ speaks volumes about the difficult economics of pay TV. Until regional sports channels start offering their services a la carte (which Sinclair hints it will do), cord-cutting sports fans won’t get much of a break.
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— Phillip Swann