Q. I have Sling TV and we haven’t had our Fox regional sports channel here in the Phoenix area forever. Is there any chance it will get it back before opening day baseball so I can watch the Arizona Diamondbacks? If not, I will try another streaming service. — Gene, Phoenix.
Gene, on July 26, 2019, both Dish and its live streaming service, Sling TV, lost 22 different Fox Sports regional channels (including your Fox Sports Arizona) due to a disagreement over how much they should pay Fox to carry them. The blackout has left sports fans frustrated because the Fox Sports regionals have the exclusive rights to carry the local broadcasts of dozens of professional teams. (Note: Since the Dish/Sling TV dispute, YouTube, Hulu Live and FuboTV have also lost the channels in separate carriage disagreements.)
The channels, which are now owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, which purchased them from Disney shortly after the Dish/Sling TV dispute began, will soon be renamed Bally Sports and become part of an online wagering service. That development has triggered some recent e-mails to yours truly that ask if they will return to Dish and Sling TV by the beginning of the 2021 Major League Baseball season.
The question is logical considering that Sinclair has said it will launch a new app with the in-game wagering around opening day, and that the channels will renamed around that time as well. That would seem to be an ideal time for Sinclair to do whatever’s necessary to end any and all carriage disputes.
However, I have to inform you that a Dish/Sling TV-Sinclair deal is unlikely before April, the start of the new season.
Dish and Sling TV have contracts with Sinclair to carry its 100-plus local network affiliates, and they are set to expire this year. Both Dish and Sinclair have hinted that the negotiations for the local channels would include the regional sports channels as well. Sinclair has even said it won’t allow Dish to offer the locals without carrying the sports channels.
But when will Dish’s agreement to carry the local channels expire, and possibly, trigger a solution for the regional sports nets?
Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said recently in a conference call with financial analysts that the company’s contract with Dish for its 100 plus local TV stations expires this summer.
“The only thing of significance that happens on the retrans side (carriage negotiations) for broadcast (in 2021) is Dish this summer,” Ripley said.
The Sinclair chief hinted that the lure of the company’s local stations could push Dish to carry the regional sports channels as well.
“We’ve had tremendous success with all the traditional (cable and satellite operators) coming with incentives to take broader packages of content. And I would expect us to continue to have that success in the future,” Ripley said.
However, if the local station agreement doesn’t expire until summer, it’s unlikely that Dish would engage in negotiations two to three months before then. After all, it’s survived not carrying the channels since July 2019.
Last point: It’s unclear if Dish will negotiate a new Sinclair deal for Sling TV as well, assuming it gets a new agreement for the satellite TV service, that is. In that analyst call, Ripley even acknowledged that the live streaming services operate by different profit margins and economic models. It’s possible that Dish will agree to carry the regional sports nets again, but not Sling.
The TV Answer Man will monitor this situation and report back here if new developments occur.
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