By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, with the NBA and NHL seasons coming up next month, do you see YouTube TV adding Bally Sports before they start. With the NFL Sunday Ticket, that would make YouTube TV the perfect TV service in the world! — Greg, Santa Monica, California.
Greg, YouTube TV has been missing the Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs) since the fall of 2020 due to a fight over fees. Fellow streamer Hulu Live also lost the RSNs around that time after failing to reach a new agreement with Sinclair, which then owned Bally Sports. (Fubo lost Bally as well in 2020 but has since added it back.) The streamers say Diamond Sports, which now owns Bally Sports, wants too much money to carry Bally.
Despite of, or perhaps because of, the long blackout, I am still frequently asked by readers if the streamers will bring back Bally Sports. Our story yesterday about whether DIRECTV will renew its agreement for the RSNs prompted a few new inquiries. And the opening of a new sports season, such as next month when the NBA returns to play, often triggers even more questions. However, there are three major reasons why it’s highly unlikely that YouTube TV or Hulu Live will settle with Diamond Sports before the two pro sports begin again. Or, perhaps, ever again.
1. Diamond Sports has declared bankruptcy.
The company which has taken ownership of the RSNs from its corporate parent, Sinclair, declared bankruptcy last March and is now trying to reorganize as a profitable unit. The uncertainty surrounding Diamond, and whether it will continue to carry its full lineup of teams, will likely keep YouTube TV and Hulu on the sidelines at least until it’s resolved.
2. Subscribers can get Bally Sports Plus.
When it was the owner, Sinclair launched a standalone app called Bally Sports Plus that allows consumers to watch their in-market Bally Sports channel without a subscription to cable, satellite or even a streaming service such as YouTube TV or Hulu Live. (The app now has the games of 15 NBA teams, 12 NHL teams and five MLB teams.) With the standalone app, the pressure on the streamers has eased because they can tell their customers that they can subscribe directly to Bally Sports. Consequently, fans would be less likely to drop YouTube TV or Hulu Live if they don’t carry Bally Sports because they have an alternative. In addition, the streamers have been without Bally for so long, that it’s likely that if a subscriber would drop one because it doesn’t carry the RSNs, he or she has already done so.
3. It’s not economically viable.
Whether it’s Hulu Live or YouTube TV, the streamers’ profit margins are so thin that it’s hard for them to justify paying the regional sports channels, which do charge more than most channels. DIRECTV Stream, which does carry Bally Sports, is able to do so by charging a minimum of $99 a month for packages that include them. Fubo requires a regional sports fee that can be as much as $14 a month in addition to the programming bundle which starts at $75 a month. But YouTube TV has a base price of $72.99 a month and it wants to keep that rate as low as possible to attract cord-cutters. (Hulu Live is now $69.99 a month although it will rise to $76.99 a month in October.) But if it adds Bally Sports, or some other RSNs, they will have to raise prices to the point where non-sports fans would balk. YouTube TV now only carries the NBC-named RSNs and it dropped SNY, the TV home of the New York Mets, a few months ago. That’s not a coincidence.
Greg, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann