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Dish Dropping NBC RSNs as it Bets on Sports Wagering

Dish DraftKings
Dish is putting DraftKings on its Hopper, but won't be carrying NBC's regional sports networks (Image credit: Dish)

Dish Network has notified subscribers that they’re going to lose more regional sports networks on April 1 when its deal to carry the NBC Regional Sports Networks expires.

The timing is odd, coming days after Dish announced a deal with DraftKings, which wants viewers watching sports and betting on the outcomes.

Under poker player and chairman Charlie Ergen, Dish has been folding its relationships with RSNs, which he had deemed offering too low a return for too high a price. 

Dish, and its Sling TV virtual MVPD, dropped the Fox-branded RSNs last year. The Walt Disney Co. acquired those RSNs when it bought 21st Century Fox, but had to sell them to Sinclair to satisfy regulators.

Sinclair last year made a deal with Bally’s and is renaming the RSNs with the Bally’s brand and plans to launch a new app that will let viewers play interactive games and connected them to Bally’s sports book, where they can make bets.

As sports betting becomes legal in more states, most media companies are looking for ways to cash in on gambling money. In most cases the media companies bring the live sports.

That seems to be what DraftKings was counting on in its deal with Dish. 

“Dish TV and the technology behind it immerses customers within a next-generation viewership experience and reaches these fanbases in a completely new way," said Paul Liberman, president of product and technology and co-founder at DraftKings, when the deal was announced. "This is a unique opportunity for fans to watch games and engage with our real-money products while the technology also allows for further innovation ahead." 

Instead, Dish and Sling seem set to live without another group of RSNs. 

This is what Dish emailed its subscribers: “As of 4/1/2021, NBC Regional Sports Networks will no longer be on Sling. We are committed to providing the best value with the flexibility our customers deserve and, unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement on those terms.”

A spokesman for NBCU said, “The NBC Regional Sports Networks offered to continue distribution on fair market terms. Dish and Sling declined those terms and will be dropping the networks."

Other NBCU programming remains on Dish and the two companies are in talks over distribution of Peacock, NBCU's streaming service, which also carries some sports.

The NBC RSNs carry teams including the Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings in basketball; the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks in hockey and the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball.

They televise more than 1,500 live professional games and reach about 35 million homes.

That some of those viewers will join the subscribers leaving Dish not just for streaming but for distributors who carry the RSNs seems to be a pretty good bet.