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Bally Sports Networks Strike Out with Streamers on Opening Day

Bally's Sports RSNs Sinclair
(Image credit: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

It looks as if Bally Sports regional sports networks have failed to strike a deal with streaming providers YouTube TV, Hulu and FuboTV before the first pitch on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day April 1.

Bally Sports, the new name for Sinclair Broadcast Group’s former Fox Sports RSNs, failed to hammer out a deal with the streaming services before 1:10 p.m. ET April 1, the first pitch of the contest between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. Bally Sports Great Lakes, formerly Sports Time Ohio, is the TV home of the Indians and was scheduled to air the game at 1:10 p.m. The RSN home of the Tigers, Bally Sports Detroit (formerly Fox Sports Detroit) also is airing the game. 

The Bally Sports RSNs have agreements with most traditional satellite and cable TV providers. But streaming services, like YouTube TV, Hulu Live and FuboTV, which have a younger audience attractive to advertisers, have so far held out.   

Also Read: Changes at Sinclair’s RSNs Just Start With Name Change

YES Network, in which Sinclair owns a minority stake, also didn’t reach a deal with YouTube TV, Hulu or FuboTV in time for the first pitch in its 1:10 p.m. matchup between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. 

Earlier Thursday Dish Network officially dropped the three NBC Sports Network RSNs and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).  Dish hasn’t had an agreement for the Sinclair RSNs since July 2019. 

Sinclair RSN spokesman Michael Padavano did not return a request for comment. 

Also Read: RSNs Scramble for Streaming Deals as Opening Day Approaches 

FuboTV dropped the RSNs in January 2020,  YouTube TV dropped them in September, and Hulu Live in  October

But there was still some hope that they could reach a deal before opening day. Alas, that doesn’t seem to be. 

As of 1:35 p.m. ET, the only streaming service that is carrying all RSNs is AT&T TV, through its $84.99 per month Choice Plan. 

Also Read: Sinclair RSNs: Timing is Everything 

Fubo TV reached a carriage deal with Sinclair’s Marquee Sports Network, a joint venture with the Chicago Cubs and separate from the Bally Sports RSNs -- on March 31. 

Sinclair bought the former Fox Sports RSNs in 2019 for $10 billion.  Last year gaming giant Bally Corp. agreed to pay Sinclair $88 million over 10 years for naming rights for the 21 regional sports networks.

Pricing of the channels appears to be the main culprit in the standoff. According to Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, on average, RSN pricing ranges from a high of $6.85 per subscriber per month to the least expensive at 34 cents per subscriber per month. Overall, the average price of regional sports networks is about $3.53 per customer per month, Kagan said. 

According to website The Streamable, YouTube and Hulu also have another reason for holding back on the RSNs -- most of their subscribers don’t watch them.

In a March 10 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Streamable co-founder Jason Gurwin estimated that only 5% to 10% of streaming TV subscribers watch RSNs. 

"The 90% of subscribers who don't watch it are subsidizing the 10% that do," Gurwin told the newspaper.  "Given that an RSN is one of the most expensive channels in a cable bundle, it's just not sustainable for these packages. Even at a more expensive $65 a month, the services are more or less breaking even on the carriage fees that they pay to carry all the channels in the bundle."