Frontier Says 'No' to YES Network

Regional sports channel the YES Network went dark to Frontier Communications customers on Sept. 1, around the same time as customers of the troubled telco lost access to several Fox Sports regional sports networks.

(Image credit: YES Network)

YES Network, which carries games from Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees, the National Basketball Association Brooklyn Nets, the Women’s NBA New York Liberty and Major League Soccer’s New York City FC, confirmed it went dark to Frontier customers on Sept 1. According to a website for YES customers, the RSN is encouraging Frontier customers to seek out other pay TV distributors to access its programming.

“We negotiated with Frontier in good faith and were eager to get a deal done, but unfortunately were unable to come to an agreement,” YES said on the website. “Frontier subscribers should switch today to one of the many providers that carry YES and its Yankees, Nets, NYCFC and Liberty games.”

While the battle with YES rages on, several Fox Sports RSNs also appear to have gone dark to Frontier customers. Fox Sports RSNs were purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group last year (it also purchased minority interest in YES last August) and have battled with distributors in the past. 

"While we had tremendous success in renewing carriage deals that expired recently, we are disappointed that Frontier has dropped a number of our regional sports networks, leaving subscribers without access to their favorite local teams and programs," Fox Sports said in a statement. "We worked with Frontier in good faith and really wanted to get a deal done, but unfortunately they were unwilling to agree to fair terms consistent with the terms on which many other subscribers carry the RSNs. Frontier subscribers should switch today to one of the many providers that carry their favorite teams."

According to sources familiar with the sports programmer, the Frontier blackout involves all Sinclair-owned RSNs with the exception of Marquee Sports Network, the joint venture Sinclair struck with the Chicago Cubs last year. Frontier was one of the first distributors to sign up with Marquee Sports. 

In a statement, Frontier acknowledged the YES and Fox Sports blackouts, which were effective Sept. 1, adding that they too tried to reach a deal.

(Image credit: YES Network)

"Frontier worked hard to negotiate a fair deal, however, we were unable to reach an agreement," Frontier said in a statement. "Our customers are very important to us and we’ll continue to strive to provide them with the best content experience, including access to their favorite shows and content including other networks that carry sports programming on -Frontier TV. These include ABC, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN/ESPN2 /ESPN Classic/ ESPNews /ESPNU, FOX, FS1/FS2, Longhorn Network, NFL Network/NFL Red Zone, NBA TV, NBC Sports Network, NBC, NHL Network, SEC Network, TBS/Turner, and TNT. No provider is immune from network negotiations and programming removals. It was economically unsustainable for Frontier to continue carrying these regional sports networks, and ultimately it was the Network’s decision to remove their programming from our lineup." 

Frontier subscribers have taken to Twitter to voice their displeasure, including former Dallas Morning News TV critic Ed Bark, who called the impasse a deal breaker.

“Our cable provider, Frontier, has now cut Fox Sports Southwest from its lineup due to contract impasse,” Bark wrote on his Twitter feed. “This follows their removal of MLB network & Mark Cuban’s AXS TV & movie net for same reason. But haven’t cut consumer prices. Unless this is remedied soon, that’s it for me.” 

Other Frontier customers of Fox Sports RSNs, including Fox Sports Florida and Fox Sports Sun -- which carry games from MLB American League East Division leader the Tampa Bay Rays -- Fox Sports West expressed similar feelings.

Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 15, and has had its reorganization plan approved by the federal court. Earlier this month it said it named former Verizon Communications executive John Stratton to be its executive chairman once the company emerges from bankruptcy protection. That is expected early in 2021. 

Frontier has had a spotty relationship with RSNs. Last year it dropped SNY, the home of MLB’s New York Mets.

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.