Dish Chairman Says Blackout of Regional Sports Networks May Serve as an Advantage

The carriage dispute between Dish and Sinclair over Fox Regional Sports Networks has been going on for some months now and doesn’t seem to be letting up. Just yesterday, Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley expressed his frustrations over the fact that the two companies couldn’t come to an agreement. He believes that without RSNs, Dish is “forgoing a key piece of the bundle” equivalent to “forgoing the top ten entertainment programs combined.”

However, execs for Dish said the blackout on RSNs only makes it harder for them to bring the channels back without increasing the price for consumers.

“In regional sports, there’s different zones and people in the cities tend to pay more for regional sports than people in the rural areas,” Charles W. Ergen, Dish’s co-founder and chairman of the board, said during today’s Q3 earnings call. “There’s a lot of complications there.”

“And the biggest complication was that Disney themselves who have contracted the negotiations out didn’t extend the contract,” Ergen said. “So we lost the best — we lost the highest value regional sports customers because the months of August — August and September, the — at least for us, are the highest, highest months for regional sports by a long shot.”

“We lost our best customers, therefore, we couldn’t pay as much money to put regional sports back up again,” Ergen added.

Though he acknowledges that it would be good to be back in partnership with Sinclair, Ergen said not having RSNs may serve as an advantage for Dish. “If everybody has regional sports, and we don’t, and trust me, the vast, vast, vast majority of our customers don’t watch a single second of any of regional sports in our network. That’s an advantage for us if that’s the strategy we have to go down because we won’t have to increase the prices to our consumers.”

FOX Regional Sports Networks broadcasts local telecasts of 14 MLB teams, 17 NBA teams and 13 NHL teams. The channels are available as part of Sling Blue package for $25 a month. While there are other services like Hulu Live TV ($45), PlayStation Vue ($55), fuboTV ($55), YouTube TV ($50) — most are double the price of Sling.