TV Answer Man, I have been waiting forever for Dish to end its fight with the Bally Sports channels, way back when they were Fox Sports etc. etc. Is there anything new in this thing? Do you think they will ever settle? — Vic, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Vic, Dish has been without the 19 Bally Sports regional sports channels (formerly known as the Fox Sports regional sports channels) since July 26, 2019 when the satcaster could not reach a new carriage agreement with their then-owner, Disney. Since then, Disney has sold the channels to Sinclair, and they were renamed this year as the Bally Sports regional sports networks.
Companies do not publicize carriage negotiations so we don’t know the dispute’s status. However, there is one thing that’s new in this battle. And that is the calendar.
Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley has acknowledged that Dish’s contract with his company’s 100 plus local channels is scheduled to expire this summer. Both Dish and Sinclair have hinted that the negotiations for the local channels would include the regional sports channels as well. Ripley has even said it won’t allow Dish to offer the locals without carrying the sports channels.
While we don’t know the exact day that Dish’s contract expires, the calendar tells us that summer starts this month so the companies are likely engaged in, at least, preliminary talks now. And in the next few months, we should learn if they have reached a new agreement, and if so, whether it includes the regional sports channels.
This impasse also affects Sling TV, the live streaming service owned by Dish, which makes the negotiations a bit trickier. It’s possible that Dish will be more receptive to returning the sports channels to its satellite TV service than its streaming service. The latter has thinner profit margins, which makes carrying the expensive regional sports nets less attractive.
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this situation, and report back here if anything changes. But, Vic, I would say the Dish-Bally Sports fight could get more interesting in the next several weeks.
Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann