TV Answer Man, is there anything new in the Bally Sports blackouts with Dish, YouTube TV and all the rest of them? Are they any closer to a settlement? — Pete, Tulsa. 

Pete, as you know, Dish, Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu Live and FuboTV are missing the Bally Sports regional sports channels due to separate carriage battles with their owner, Sinclair. However, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley yesterday offered some comments that might at least give hope to Dish subscribers.

Following release of the company’s first quarter report, Ripley was asked by financial analysts to comment on  carriage negotiations with Dish. (Dish’s contract to carry Sinclair’s 100 plus local network affiliates is expected to expire this summer, leading to speculation the two companies could reach an agreement for the locals and the Bally Sports channels in the coming months.)

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Ripley said: “On your question related to Dish, we really can’t be renegotiating in public with Dish for I think obvious reasons, but I will note that we have had tremendous success with the traditional (cable and satellite operators) when we come with the entire suite of our programing on offer. In fact, we have been successful with all of them under that circumstance, say for Frontier who filed for bankruptcy. It will be a pivotal time and of course, we can’t predict. We don’t have a crystal ball, what will happen, but I will note that that has been a successful strategy for us with the other traditional (cable and satellite operators.)”

If you’re not versed in industry lingo, Ripley is saying odds are good that Dish will agree to carry both the local channels and the regional sports channels if the two sides reach a deal this summer, not just the locals. That doesn’t mean they will reach a deal, but he’s expressing some optimism.

However, in regards to Sling TV (owned by Dish), and the other live streaming services, Ripley would only say that “time will tell if these distributors will return.”

That’s not very encouraging, but at least Ripley didn’t acknowledge that the economics of live streaming makes it difficult for them to carry regional sports channels because of their higher carriage fees. That’s what he said in February, the last time he was asked to comment on the streaming blackout.

“The (live streamers) have a different business model. There are skinnier bundles, lower-priced targeting lower economic, socioeconomic strata for consumer…so there is a difference in the way that mechanic works, and there is a difference in their business model as well in terms of what they can afford and what they value. So that’s – that does tend to lead to different outcomes,” Ripley said then.

Still, yesterday’s remarks does not bode well for the live streamers. And if you were hoping that you could bypass the pay TV services, and subscribe directly to Bally Sports, the Sinclair CEO also said yesterday that the company doesn’t expect to launch a standalone app until next year.

The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation and report back here if anything changes.

Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann