TV Answer Man, I’m a long-suffering Padres fan out here in San Diego with an old Dish on my roof. Do you think Dish will ever bring back the Bally Sports channel that has the Padres on it? — Larry, San Diego.
Larry, Dish has been missing the 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks (including Bally Sports San Diego, TV home of the San Diego Padres) since July 2019 (when they were known as the Fox Sports RSNs) due to a carriage dispute. The carriage row first occurred when Fox owned them, but they are now owned by the Sinclair Broadcast group.
Some analysts, including yours truly, thought it was possible the two companies would settle the fee fight last year when they were negotiating a separate pact for Sinclair’s 100 plus local network affiliates. However, while a deal was reached in November 2021 for the local stations, the Bally Sports channels were not included.
Since that agreement in November, there has been no indication that the companies might revisit the Bally Sports standoff. In fact, three signs have pointed to the impasse likely lasting forever.
1. Sinclair has launched a standalone app for cord-cutters and viewers who have TV services such as Dish which don’t carry Bally Sports. The new app, which now includes the live in-market games of five MLB teams, is expected to expand this fall with the addition of NBA and NHL teams (in market) and, possibly, more MLB teams. Dish executives argue that the app makes carrying Bally Sports less important because there’s now a way to subscribe directly to it.
2. Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley last February suggested that Dish has less motivation to carry Bally Sports than other pay TV distributors.
“Dish was an outlier and they had dropped the RSNs before we owned them. And they’ve been off for two years. And so they also don’t have a bundle offering. And so there’s a lot of differences. And they’re also very rural. So they’re outside of the fan zones that care the most about these teams,” Ripley said.
That didn’t sound like Sinclair has much hope that they will ever return to Dish.
3. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen continues to reiterate that he does not believe that regional sports channels are a good value for his customers and his company. (The satcaster is currently not carrying any regional sports channels.) He says the carriage fees of the RSNs are too high while viewership is relatively low.
Sorry, Larry. Add them all up and it’s tough to offer any hope of a settlement. Your best hope of watching the Padres is subscribe to a different pay TV service or subscribe to the standalone Bally Sports app when it adds the Padres.
Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann