With the ink barely dry on the sale of its former Fox RSNs to Sinclair Broadcast Group, Disney has pulled the plug on about 16 regional sports channels to Dish Network subscribers after carriage talks broke down Friday.
About 16 Fox RSNs -- 15 that are part of the larger sale of 21 Fox sports channels to Sinclair, and the YES Network -- went dark to Dish Network satellite TV customers and subscribers to its Sling TV over-the-top streaming service.
Disney agreed to sell 21 Fox RSNs it acquired as part of its larger purchase of certain 21st Century Fox assets in March for $71.3 billion. The YES Network was not part of that deal but was purchased by a group including the New York Yankees Major League Baseball club.
According to people familiar with both companies, Disney is keeping its distance in the negotiations -- Fox Sports Networks Group is handling talks on behalf of all the RSNs, including YES Network. However, given Dish’s past history in the New York sports market, it may be easier for the distributor to say “No” to YES, which offers games and programming from the Yankees and the NBA Brooklyn Nets.
Dish dropped MSG Network in 2010 and SportsNet New York (SNY) in 2011. Dish never carried YES Network on its satellite TV service, but in 2016 it was added to Sling TV’s Blue service as part of a larger deal with Fox.
According to some reports, the RSNs wanted to strike a temporary carriage deal for the channels that would expire once the Sinclair transaction closes. But Dish balked at that scenario.
In an interview, Dish SVP of programming Andy LeCuyer said Dish had proposed a short-term contract extension that included a retroactive rate adjustment and would have kept the channels available to customers while talks continued. Disney declined, offering an extension that would have lasted until Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season.
“They want to use baseball fans as negotiation leverage, while continuing to get paid in the meantime for sports with lower viewership,” Dish said in a statement. “Coming to a fair deal is in the interest of customers, not a nine-month extension that simply puts them in the middle again.”.
Dish says Disney is demanding “unreasonable rates,” but it seems that a major sticking point is the requirement that the channels remain available to all customers.
“We think the RSN content should be sort of like a ticket to the ballpark. Fans who love and want that content should be the ones who pay for it, not forcing the vast majority of other subscribers to subsidize it, ” LeCuyer said in an interview.
LeCuyer said there are no scheduled talks with Fox about the channels. But he said Dish is willing to sit down to try to hammer out an agreement.
The channels involved are:
- Fox Sports Arizona
- Fox Sports Cincinnati
- Fox Sports Detroit
- Fox Sports Florida
- Fox Sports Midwest
- Fox Sports North
- Fox Sports Ohio
- Fox Sports Prime Ticket
- Fox Sports San Diego
- Fox Sports South
- Fox Sports Southeast
- Fox Sports Southwest
- Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio
- Fox Sports Sun
- Fox Sports West
- YES Network (Sling TV only)