TV Answer Man, I am thinking of getting DIRECTV for Bally Sports so I can watch the Padres, but I’m afraid that their contract with Bally will expire during the two-year contract you have to sign up for. Then I would be stuck with DIRECTV and would have no Padres games. Do you know how long their contract with Bally is? — Steve, La Mesa, California.

Steve, you are not alone in your concern. The loss of a favorite channel due to a carriage battle has become commonplace, particularly in the regional sports category. Dish and Sling TV have lost all their regional sports nets while YouTube TV, Hulu Live and FuboTV have lost the Bally Sports nets, among others. The pay TV operators are trying to cut costs, but the programmers are continuing to raise their carriage fees, which is triggering the blackouts.

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The viewers are caught in the middle of this increasingly contentious situation. And the dilemma is even more concerning for those who are locked in two-year contracts with their cable or satellite service. If their pay TV operator drops a channel, they can’t switch to another service without breaking the contract and being forced to pay a termination penalty. And if they choose to accept that punitive penalty, and switch to another service, they run the risk that the second operator might engage in a dispute with that channel as well!

The matter is even more complicated because the pay TV operators and programmers normally do not publish when their current agreements end. So the viewer can’t make an informed decision on which provider to get. For example, if you knew that DIRECTV’s agreement to carry Bally Sports didn’t end for three years, you could subscribe with the confidence that you wouldn’t lose your regional net at least until then.

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But I have good news for you. We just learned when DIRECTV’s contract with Sinclair, the owner of Bally Sports, ends.

In a first quarter earnings call yesterday with financial analysts, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley was asked when his company’s carriage pacts with both DIRECTV and Comcast expire. (The carriage agreement for DIRECTV also includes DIRECTV Stream and U-verse.)

“They are both in the back half of 2023,” Ripley responded.

That means if you subscribe now to DIRECTV, you could potentially lose your Bally Sports channel in 14 months or so. (The ‘back half’ of 2023 would start in July.) However, the companies last signed a carriage pact in October 2019 so it’s more likely that it wouldn’t be until October 2023 at the earliest. And there’s no indication now that DIRECTV and Sinclair won’t be able to sign a new deal.

Bottom line: It looks good that Bally Sports will stay in DIRECTV’s lineup for at least 17 months, and possibly much longer. However, if you still feel uncertain, note that DIRECTV Stream, which also carries Bally Sports (including your Bally Sports San Diego), home of the San Diego Padres), does not require a contract.

Steve, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann