Regional Sports Networks Left Out of Dish Network-Sinclair Deal

November 15, 2021 Topic: Entertainment Blog Brand: Politics Tags: SportsEntertainmentDish TVSinclairRegional Sports

Regional Sports Networks Left Out of Dish Network-Sinclair Deal

Local sports were popular programming, which was nearly always watched live, and tended to be lucrative, but that may no longer be the case. 

For many years, local sports were one of the things that appeared immune from the forces first of DVRs, and then of cord-cutting. Local sports were popular programming, which was nearly always watched live, and tended to command high rights fees. And those rights fees have been a major revenue engine that has led to prosperity in the sports leagues.

However, more recently the regional sports networks (RSNs) have begun to show some signs of decline.

Sportico wrote back in August about growing trouble with the RSN sector.

“As the cable bundle continues to unravel, regional sports networks have been downgraded from industry darlings to near-revenants, and while some might argue that the wheels started flying off in spring 2020, when the pandemic brought the world to a shuddering halt, the cautionary klaxons began blaring five years ago,” the site said.

Bally Sports, a new series of networks formed in 2020 after a consortium led by Sinclair Broadcast Group made a deal to acquire what used to be called the Fox Sports family of networks, has also had reported troubles. And while Sinclair has made noises about launching a streaming product of its own, the sports leagues have hinted they’re not on board and may be eying a streaming service of their own.

This week, there’s more bad news for the RSNs. Dish Network has reached an agreement to end its standoff with Sinclair, which will end the three-month blackout that kept Sinclair stations off of Dish Network.

"We are pleased to have reached a multi-year agreement with Sinclair after months of negotiations," said Brian Neylon, group president at Dish TV, said in a statement. "Sinclair has been a good long-term partner to work with. Both sides have been committed to keeping our customers top of mind and not putting them in the middle of our negotiations. After several contract extensions, we have arrived at a fair agreement that benefits all parties, especially our customers.”

The deal also includes the Tennis Channel. However, as noted by FierceVideo and other outlets, no agreement was announced to resolve the parties’ continuing dispute over the carriage of the Sinclair RSNs.

“Dish Network dropped Sinclair’s RSNs back in the summer of ’19,” Sports Business Journal said Monday of the deal. “Sports leagues held out some hope that Sinclair would have used leverage around the local broadcast stations it owns to force Dish Network into a deal to carry the regional sports networks. Those hopes look to be dashed with this new deal that does not include RSNs and there is no indication that negotiations over the RSNs are continuing.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters