NBC Sports Chicago Pulled From Dish Network Lineup

NBC Sports Chicago has been blacked out to subscribers of Dish Network and its Sling TV streaming service.

Dish said that it offered to continue to carry the regional sports channel and that NBC Sports Chicago was seeking guaranteed payments for a minimum number of subscribers in a new deal.

NBC Sports Chicago has carried games of the Chicago Cubs for years but won’t have the team next season. The Cubs are working with Sinclair Broadcast Group to launch their own Marquee Sports Network, which will carry all Cubs games next season.

NBC Sports, starting Oct. 1 is the only channel carrying the Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox, with no games appearing on local channels including WGN-TV which has been airing sports for more than 70 years.

“The regional sports model has been broken for years, and we’re facing a critical point in our industry,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish senior VP of programming. “NBC Sports Chicago is losing its most popular content in the Cubs, while demanding payment on a guaranteed minimum number of subscribers, when only a fraction watch the channel. It simply makes no sense for our customers.”

The Cubs missed the playoffs after four straight years of being good enough to make the postseason and did not renew the contract of manager Joe Maddon. They won the World Series in 2016.

NBC Sports Chicago has been airing promos warning Dish Network subscribers that they could lose access to the channel. 

On Tuesday morning NBC Sports Network ran a banner on its website saying “Attention Dish Customers: You have lost NBC Sports Chicago and your White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls.” It included a link that directs viewers to switch pay-TV providers.

“NBC Sports Chicago thanks the many distribution partners who recognize the great value of our channel and have decided to continue serving fans with the most local games and best coverage of Chicago sports," the regional sports network said. "We are disappointed Dish has dropped NBC Sports Chicago, denying its subscribers more exclusive local Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox games than the network has ever had before. NBC Sports Chicago values Dish and is working in good faith to come to a fair market value agreement, but Dish is unwilling to meaningfully engage. Dish subscribers have other options and can learn how to switch providers on www.mysportschicago.com.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.