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Dish Chairman Believes ‘Regional Sports Are Not Dead’ Despite Having Dropped Channels

Stephanie Sengwe

One of the most noteworthy carriage disputes happened between Dish and Sinclair over Fox Regional Sports Networks. Last year, Fox Sports announced that Sling TV and Dish Network dropped 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks.

Since then, the two companies haven’t been able to find a middle ground, with Sinclair’s president and CEO Chris Ripley saying excluding RSNs is “forgoing a key piece of the bundle” equivalent to “forgoing the top ten entertainment programs combined.” For their part, Dish believed that viewers of those channels have already left the platform therefore there’s no need to pay high prices for RSNs.

Despite having reached an impasse with Sinclair, during their Q3 2020 earnings call today, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen revealed that he still believes in the value of having sports as part of a TV bundle, but maintained that the pricing still has to make sense for them.

“I don’t think sports are dead and I don’t think regional sports are dead. It was so unfortunate that Sinclair didn’t own the company when we were negotiating our deal…I’m not pessimistic about it. I think things have to change. They’ve changed in terms of new technologies and taking advantage of them, changed in terms of features for the consumer…” he explained.

“You’re not going to be able, probably, to get people who never watch sports to pay. I think you’ve got to change that model. For us, we had real math when it comes to programming content. We know what the value is when it comes to our customers..[and] the value of regional sports to our customers was the most overrated. It wasn’t a big risk on our part.”

Nonetheless, Ergen holds out hope that since live sports are here for the long haul, a resolve can be reached if the structure is changed. He concluded, “We haven’t given up on sports. We think they’re part of the ecosystem…It’s a business that has the advantage of being live, advantage of being interactive, it’s got the advantage of passion. It just needs to be restructured.”

Earlier today, Dish reported that while Sling TV has seen a steady decline of subscribers over the past few quarters, they saw an uptick in Q3. The skinny bundle added 203K subscribers, giving them 2.458 million. However, this is less than the 2.686 million they had at the end of the third quarter last year.

In September, Sling TV added NFL Network and NFL RedZone back to their channel line-up, which helped boost subscribers in the quarter.

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