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Sinclair CEO Says Upcoming RSN Direct-to-Consumer Offering Will Complement to Pay-TV Business

Stephanie Sengwe

The end of November brought with it some big news from Sinclair. The company announced they reached a deal with Bally’s Corporation which would see Bally Sports become the new name of Fox Sports RSNs. They followed that news up by announcing that they would also be bringing the newly-branded RSNs direct-to-consumer.

During their call to announce the partnership, company President and CEO Chris Ripley said their new streaming app will rollout first with TV Everywhere authentication, then they’ll be available via direct-to-consumer service. Ripley did not give any details on pricing, nor did he reveal whether or not the DTC offering will include all games.

With all these new changes coming next year, and with many companies pivoting to focus more on DTC, the question of how the new offering would affect Sinclair’s longstanding relationship with pay-TV distributors naturally came up. During today’s Wells Fargo TMT Summit, Ripley affirmed that the company’s new venture wouldn’t upheave their current model.

“It doesn’t really change the relationship with distributors. They are extremely important to us. Whatever we do in direct-to-consumer will be complementary to our existing distribution relationships,” he stated. “I do think we’ll be living in a hybrid world for many years to come where direct-to-consumer and traditional pay-TV bundles will co-exist for the foreseeable future and that’s the path we’re going to be moving towards in the future. Just because we’re going to have direct-to-consumer product doesn’t mean that we’re going to exist the traditional pay-TV market place.”

The new service will be an important change for Sinclair after the loss of distribution across streaming services. Sinclair has been having a rough go at when it comes maintaining carriage of its sports RSNs on streamers.

This year, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, and fuboTV all dropped the channels. Last year, both Dish Network and Sling TV dropped the channels from their service.

Sinclair-owned 21 sports nets broadcast rights to 42 professional clubs in the NBA, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

In calendar year 2018, the RSN portfolio delivered a combined $3.8 billion in revenue across 74 million subscribers. But the pandemic has wreaked havoc with this year’s live sports. Sinclair’s valued dropped $4.23 billion. Shares also plummeted 33 percent year-over-year. Sinclair Broadcast Group reported a loss of $3.2 billion in Q3, including writing off part of the value of the RSNs.

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