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Sinclair, Streamers Still at Impasse Over RSNs

2021 New York Yankees in action
Baseball season got underway with key networks still unavailable to some vMVPD subscribers. (Image credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Moving into the second week of Major League Baseball’s 2021 regular season, Bally Sports Networks still hasn’t reached a carriage deal with three top streaming services. 

YouTube TV, Hulu Live Plus TV and FuboTV still refuse to carry the channels, which were purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2019. The former Fox Sports channels were rebranded as Bally Sports Networks on March 31, part of the 10-year, $88 million agreement between Sinclair and the casino owner. 

While the streamers have been without the networks for months — Hulu and FuboTV dropped the 21 channels in January 2020, with YouTube TV shedding the networks in October — the hope was that they could reach a deal by Opening Day, April 1.

That was not to be. As of press time, the channels were still dark to the streamers. FuboTV did reach an agreement with Marquee Sports Network, in which Sinclair has a minority interest, on April 1. 

Rob Weisbord, president of broadcast and chief revenue officer at Sinclair, told B+C/Multichannel News on April 1 Sinclair’s distribution team is in talks with MVPDs “trying to figure out how to get to a deal.”

Bally Sports has carriage deals with most of the traditional MVPDs across the country, except for RSN-averse Dish Network, which dropped the channels in 2019. But the lack of carriage from the streaming services, which have more younger viewers coveted by advertisers, has cast a pall on the channels.

Sports consultant Lee Berke, president and CEO of LHB Media & Entertainment, said it is possible the streamers are “trying to see if they can get by without the RSNs,” but added that the standoff highlights the growing need for RSNs to have a direct-to-consumer component to their offerings. 

Jon Lafayette contributed to this report.