Sinclair Broadcasting Group Has No News on Bally Sports Stalemate with Hulu and YouTube TV
On the company’s Q1 2021 investors call, president and CEO Chris Ripley had “no comments on the status of distributor discussions” and that “time will tell if these distributors will return.” Last October, both YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV dropped Sinclair’s Bally Sports RSNs due to disagreements over carriage fees. DISH also dropped the Sinclair RSNs, to which Ripley said, “We can’t be negotiating with DISH in public, for obvious reasons.” It doesn’t look like these disagreements will be resolved, at least for the near future.
Sinclair’s consistent inability to work with broadcast distributors could lead them to a nuclear option of sorts: eschewing the linear broadcast companies and doubling down on a direct-to-consumer streaming option. This way, Sinclair could only have to negotiate with teams and leagues. While the app is Bally Sports-branded, it is a Sinclair asset, as confirmed by Ripley on the company’s Q1 2021 investors call, meaning they can do as they wish with the app.
Ripley already confirmed the Bally Sports DTC app was coming in the near future, but said it would be a “complementary” piece to the broadcasting puzzle. However, if Sinclair loses any more of its broadcast partners, it may need to pivot yet again and consider a digital-only format.
Currently, the only live TV streaming service that carries Bally Sports RSNs is AT&T TV. However, Sinclair does have carriage deals in place with most traditional cable companies, meaning fans can use TV Everywhere credentials to watch their teams. That doesn’t help when cord-cutting is becoming more abundant, especially among younger viewers, who Sinclair would love to target with advertising. In that regard, a streaming-only platform would do well to reach these viewers.