Comcast has reached a long-term carriage deal with Fox News, a multi-year pact that also would mark the return of regional sports channel YES Network, which has been dark to Comcast subscribers in the New Jersey for more than a year.
News of the deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Fox News’ earlier Comcast deal expired on Dec. 31. The new pact ensured that there was no disruption of service for the cable company’s 22 million customers.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but reports estimated that Fox News would receive more than $1.50 per subscriber per month in the deal.
Fox News was named the most-watched basic cable network in 2016, in both average primetime and full-day viewers, according to Nielsen data. The network averaged 2.4 million viewers per night, besting last year’s winner ESPN, which declined 11% to 1.9 million nightly viewers in 2016. And the channel stands to gain even more leverage with President-elect Donald Trump scheduled to take office on Jan. 20.
The YES deal also includes carriage of about a dozen other Fox RSNs. Comcast dropped YES in November 2015, leaving about 900,000 customers in parts of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania without the popular network. But the channel’s main source of programming – Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the National Basketball Association Brooklyn Nets – have fallen on hard times, with the Yankees missing the playoffs in the 2016 season – for the third time in four years. The Nets are currently tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with 8 wins and 24 losses.
Comcast had claimed that its subscribers hardly watched the channel at all – a claim YES hotly disputed – and the distributor doesn’t seem to be in a rush to return the channel to its lineup just yet.
Comcast hasn’t said when YES will return to its customers, and according to some reports, Comcast may wait until the Yankees’ start playing in the spring to begin carrying the network.
YES had reportedly been pushing to increase its rates to about $6 per subscriber per month from about $5.36 per subscriber per month according to SNL Kagan. But the Journal said “most favored nation” contract language that ensures the programmer wouldn’t cut a better deal with a rival distributor was the main sticking point.
“We always said that we would continue to evaluate whether there was a way to bring back the YES Network under terms that are consistent with our commitment to providing the best programming at the best possible price," Comcast said in a statement. "Our year-end discussions with Fox gave us a chance to revisit this, and we were able to reach an overall agreement for Fox News Channel, 12 Fox RSNs, and YES Network that makes sense for both of us – and most importantly, our customers.”