TV Answer Man, I’ve been hearing about Bally Sports being available on the Internet so you don’t have to get Hulu or YouTube TV or a cable TV sub. Is that happening and will the companies that already carry it like DIRECTV be okay with that? Why would anyone get it on DIRECTV if they can get it without having to subscribe to it? — Gene, Miami.
Gene, as you note, the 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks, which are owned by Sinclair, are not available on Hulu Live, FuboTV, Sling TV, Dish or YouTube TV due to separate carriage fights. It’s possible that one or two of those services, such as Dish, could add them in the coming months, but there’s a blackout as of now.
The stalemate has generated considerable anger among sports fans because Bally Sports has the rights to carry the local broadcasts of dozens of NHL, MLB and NBA teams. However, Sinclair plans next year to launch a standalone app that will allow consumers to subscribe to their local Bally Sports channel regardless of whether they have a subscription to a cable, satellite or multi-channel streaming service. The company has yet to release significant details, such as a launch date and pricing, but it would eliminate the blackout problem.
But what about the pay TV services that now carry Bally Sports, such as DIRECTV, AT&T TV, and Spectrum? Won’t they be upset if Sinclair offers its channels directly to the consumers without getting a subscription to them? And if so, couldn’t they stop carrying them?
The answer is yes and no. While the pay TV operators that now carry Bally Sports won’t like the added competition, there’s apparently nothing they can do to stop it, so long as their existing carriage agreement is in place.
In fact, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said recently that the existing distributors are on board, even if they don’t necessarily want to be there.
“Well, we have already cleared the path with the distributors to launch direct-to-consumer. So that’s the answer on that question,” Ripley told financial analysts following release of the company’s first quarter report.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the existing pay TV services that carry Bally Sports won’t drop them once their current agreement ends. For example, some cable and satellite operators, such as Dish, say they don’t carry HBO now because it’s available as a separate service online. The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this issue, and report back here if anything changes.
Gene, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann