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According to Sinclair CEO, This Is Why DISH Dropped Fox RSNs

Jason Gurwin

Late last month, Fox Sports announced that Sling TV and Dish Network dropped 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks and YES Network. This comes after the two sides agreed to a temporary extension when the deal was supposed to expire.

The channels which were acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group by Disney, after netting them as part of their deal for 21st Century Fox, will not officially be completed for a few weeks. Currently, the channels are managed by a separate group that is handling the carriage negotiations.

On today’s Q2 2019 Earnings Call, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley addressed blackout of Fox RSNs on Dish Network and Sling TV, as well as the loss of CBS on DIRECTV NOW. ” I think what you’re seeing right now is really all coming from AT&T and DISH. And they have a few different motivations right now. It’s certainly a time of year when there’s a lack of active programming on broadcast,” said Chris Ripley.

He recognizes that “(if there is a) good time to go dark. It’s certainly this time of year. That changes in short order here in a few weeks. He expects that to change, and “that AT&T and DISH will recognize the value of broadcasters’ highly rated content and come to fair terms with the industry, as season premieres and football season start in September.”

Dish Network though is not as optimistic. Last week, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said, “It doesn’t look good that the Regional Sports will be on Dish again.

Ergen made it seem that this could be a different story had Sinclair already taken over the channels. “Sinclair the new owner, is someone we want to do business with. We like what they’re doing with ATSC 3.0 — we think we’re aligned in. We hate not to carry.”

The challenge Ergen says that now that the channels are gone from Dish and Sling, “a month from now, no one is going to want it.” He assumes most of the customers who would leave as a result of this, will have already left, so “all you’re doing is taxing the customers who don’t want it. Only a small fraction of our customers are viewers of regional sports.”

In terms of the loss of local affiliates, there are also political motivations to the blackouts according to Ripley “with the STELAR bill that’s come up for renewal.” The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act which was renewed in 2014 exempts satellite owners from retransmission consent for “underserve households” and requires broadcast stations and MVPDs to negotiate in good faith.

“There’s a big push by — I think many lawmakers just to let it expire. It’s really not needed anymore and AT&T and DISH very much would like to see it renewed. And so, they have sort of — they have a number of motivations to act in the way that they are.”

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