Much of the consternation over the absence of regional sports channels from carriers has focused on streaming options. One by one, platforms like Sling, YouTube TV and Hulu have dropped Sinclair-owned RSNs in the last couple of years, impacting local viewers in many markets.
One sliver of light that emerged in recent months, though, had to do with a larger platform: Dish Network, which dropped the RSNs in July 2019, was in negotiations with Sinclair and there was hope that a new deal might include the re-emergence of those channels.
Instead, a deal was reached between the two sides this week that did not include those regional channels — a signal that those channels might not ever return to Dish.
So the countless Dish customers in Minnesota who have contacted me hoping they might be able to watch the Twins, Wild, Wolves and other teams on Bally Sports North are instead out of luck — and perhaps still stuck in expensive and lengthy contracts with Dish even though they aren't getting one of the channels they really want.
It's a major blow all around.
Though the RSNs are available on cable systems and DirecTV, which at 15.4 million subscribers is the largest satellite provider, their continued absence from Dish is notable.
Dish has 8 million subscribers, as many as Hulu and YouTube TV combined. And the failed negotiations between Dish and Sinclair could be a sign of even more disruption to the business of putting sports on TV.
As John Ourand writes in the linked story above, teams could feel the pinch of lost TV revenue. Sinclair's Diamond Sports group could be pushed closer to bankruptcy. And negotiations between Sinclair and Charter, a large cable system, could be impacted next year.
All of that could push us closer to a better solution in the future, considering the disaster Sinclair has been ever since acquiring the RSNs in the middle of 2019.
If leagues emerge in 1-2 years with streaming plans that they control, frustrating negotiations like this could be avoided down the road and consumers could have better choices.
But in the short term, sports fans continue to suffer.