After reaching a short-term extension earlier this week to continue carriage, Dish and Sling TV have dropped the Fox Sports RSNs in a dispute over fees and tiers. The news was first reported by John Ourand of Sports Business Daily.
This is going to be a major inconvenience for baseball fans who are Dish or Sling TV customers in half of MLB’s markets. The following teams are affected: Diamondbacks, Braves, Reds, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Angels, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, Yankees, Cardinals, Padres, Rays, and Rangers. If it extends into October, about half the NBA and NHL teams will be affected as well.
The Fox RSN advocacy page Keepmyhometeams.com writes: “The Fox RSNs offered to extend Dish and Sling under the current terms of our existing agreement, but Dish and Sling rejected our offer. We know fans are looking forward to the broadcasts during the stretch run of baseball season, and we hope Dish and Sling act to return this programming to their customers.”
As we wrote verbatim this past weekend, Variety has a story summarizing the aggregate situation, which is essentially that Dish (and therefore also Sling TV, the streaming service that is its subsidiary) has had widespread carriage disputes. They haven’t had HBO since November, more than a dozen local broadcast affiliates owned by Meredith have been out for a few days, and distribution deals originally signed by Fox are expiring soon.
This is complicated because these channels are now owned and/or will soon be owned by three different companies. Fox is retaining Fox News Channel and FS1, while Disney is the new owner of FX and National Geographic. The regional sports networks were sold to Disney but then sold again to Sinclair (with YES Network sold separately to a group involving a combo of the Yankees, Amazon, and Sinclair) — regulatory red tape triggered the second sale, which is still pending other regulatory approval. What this means, per Variety, is that an “interim group” is handling the RSN negotiations.
This could all get very ugly.
UPDATE: A Dish spokesperson sends the following statement:
“DISH and Sling has offered the Fox Regional Sports Networks a short-term extension, in an effort to quickly negotiate a fair, long-term deal for our customers. The RSNs offered an extension that would put the new expiration date up against the 2020 Major League Baseball Opening Day. They want to use baseball fans as negotiation leverage, while continuing to get paid in the meantime for sports with lower viewership. Coming to a fair deal is in the interest of customers, not a nine-month extension that simply puts them in the middle again.”
Hopefully for the sake of said baseball fans these two sides can resolve their differences sooner than later.