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Sinclair’s CEO Ripley Responds to Dish Chairman, Says Pay-TV Businesses Will Degrade Without RSNs

Stephanie Sengwe

The carriage dispute between Sinclair and Dish continues to rage on as both sides are adamant on maintaining their position. Though they are yet to come to an agreement, during their Q3 2020 earnings call earlier this month, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen admitted that RSNs are an important part of a TV bundle.

“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 stated.

Well, during the RBC TMT Conference today, Sinclair President and CEO Chris Ripley was asked about Ergen’s position and he maintained that without RSNs, the future of Dish and other Pay-TV bundles hangs in the balance.

“Sports and the types of sports we created are major pillars within the live viewing pay TV bundle. Distributors that go without them for prolonged periods of time will see their business degrade. I think there will be an opportunity for Dish coming up this summer [when] sports are returning back to normal patterns post-pandemic…I’m looking forward to that discussion,” he stated.

Ripley shared similar sentiments during Sinclair’s 2019 Q3 earnings call last November. “We don’t know what will happen with Dish, we view it as a temporary issue. Either we come to a deal with Dish or their relevance in the industry will be reduced over time,” he told analysts.

“Forgoing the RSNs is the equivalent of — from a viewership perspective — forgoing the top ten entertainment programs combined. It’s really forgoing a key piece of the bundle and that’s only going to be exasperated over time as [legalized] sports betting moves through the country.”

Dish Network and its subsidiary streamer Sling TV dropped 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks last year. In September, Sling added NFL Network and NFL RedZone back to their channel line-up, which helped boost subscribers in the quarter.