Tom Pederson considers himself a fan of all Minnesota sports, but particularly the Twins.
Pederson was thrilled when he dropped a more expensive cable package in favor of YouTube TV more than a year ago — a bundle of channels that, at the time, included Fox Sports North (since rebranded to Bally Sports North) and gave him access to virtually every Twins, Wild and Wolves games plus most Minnesota United and some Lynx games.
But like countless other Minnesota sports fans, he was dismayed when YouTube TV along with Hulu — the two largest live TV streaming services, with more than 3 million subscribers each in the U.S. — dropped Sinclair-owned regional sports networks in the fall in a dispute over carriage fees. Those channels have not returned nearly 9 months later.
"I thought, well, when Twins season starts that's really when I'm going to have to make a decision — when I'll really miss it," Pederson said on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast, an episode that featured three fans sharing their sports viewing perspectives, frustrations and habits. "Unfortunately because of they way they're performing I haven't missed it that much. ... I've just been able to adapt around it, I guess. I just haven't missed it as much as I thought I would. We used to have Twins games on at home every day, just to follow them. But I've gotten used to it."
It's that sort of sentiment — one shared to a degree by Douglas Farmer and Corbitt Harrell, the two other fans on the podcast — that should scare teams the most as they navigate fans having a diminished opportunity to watch them.
While it's true that Bally Sports North is still available on major cable providers, via satellite with DirecTV (though not Dish Network) and one streaming service (AT&T Choice, for $85 a month), telling consumers to switch to one of those options is tricky for a couple reasons.
First, some of them like Harrell have already made multiple switches hopping from service to service in search of regional sports. They're tired of the hassle.
Second, many of the fans who made the switch to services like YouTube or Hulu did so because it was cheaper than cable/satellite and didn't require a long-term contract. Once you've given them a less expensive option with the content they want, they aren't going to be inclined to pay full price any more.
Farmer said he gave up his cable package when he moved a few months ago. But as a Wolves season ticket holder, he says he will feel the sting in a few months when that season starts up again. But he didn't mention adding back cable — instead, he only alluded to getting a friend to share a cable password.
"I will have to find a way," Farmer said.
Farmer and Harrell sounded intrigued when I mentioned the $23 standalone app that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, as reported by the New York Post. But all three fans thought $23 was too much to pay just for access to one channel.
That sort of thing wouldn't be ready until the 2022 MLB season, at the earliest. For now, all three fans are adapting. Farmer watches fewer games, but the ones he really want to see he will go watch at bars. Harrell says he has gotten into the Lynx this season because many of their games are on national TV.
And Pederson? Well, with the Twins floundering nearly halfway through the season, he's in no hurry to see what he's been missing.
"There's many nights where I'll get a text from a buddy saying, 'Hey, are you watching the Twins?' You know, (Miguel) Sano just hit a three-run homer," Pederson said. "And I realize that I completely forgot that they were even playing that night. It's kind of out of sight, out of mind."