Sports fans who access their local pro teams through streaming services are running out of options.
Hulu + Live TV announced in an email to subscribers Thursday that it is dropping regional sports networks from its channel lineup as of Friday. Locally, that means Minnesota subscribers will no longer have access to Fox Sports North and the bevy of programming on that channel.
Conveniently — but not conveniently — I’m a subscriber and can share that e-mail with you all. It reads:
Starting on October 23, 2020 Hulu will no longer have the rights to distribute certain Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) that are currently included with your Hulu + Live TV plan. While we were unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group to continue offering channels like your Fox Sports RSN, YES Network, and Marquee Network, the good news is that you will continue to have access to a wide variety of sports from other popular channels including ESPN, TNT, and TBS, as well as FS1 and FS2.
Why yes, that’s tremendous news! Thank you for keeping channels I already pay for while ditching the one I really want!
As a “cord-cutter” who has been hopping from stream to stream, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I moved to Hulu more than a year ago after SlingTV (and DISH, a traditional satellite service) dropped FSN.
A few weeks ago, YouTube TV also dropped all the regional sports networks. With the news from Hulu, that means by far the three largest streaming services — all with more than 2 million subscribers — no longer carry the regional sports networks.
If there’s any glimmer of hope it’s this tweet from media and sports business reporter John Ourand, who notes that there isn’t a ton of programming on RSNs right now since we’re past the MLB regular season and the NBA, WNBA and NHL are in their offseasons.
Indeed, while virtually every Wild, Wolves and Twins game is on FSN (and a lot of Lynx games as well), that channel isn’t utilized nearly as often right now as it typically is in my house given the delayed start to the NBA and NHL seasons.
“These seem to be opportunistic moves to me,” Ourand wrote, adding, “My bet is that deals will be made as live games start up again.”
That said, it immediately impacts Minnesota United fans. Four more Loons regular-season matches are on FSN the rest of the season. Now they are unavailable to Hulu subscribers. FSN and FSN+ carried a combined 20 Gophers men’s hockey games last season as well as a variety of other local winter sports. Such games this season don’t figure to be available.
The appeal of streaming services is a pared-down menu of channels — but still the ones you want, particularly as a sports fan — for a lower price (Hulu is $54.99 a month) than traditional cable/satellite providers. They also don’t require a contract, just a month-to-month subscription, allowing the viewer to cancel without any fees.
But if Ourand is wrong and those channels don’t return (Sling hasn’t brought them back, and it’s been well over a year) to Hulu or YouTube TV then in-market cord-cutters will be out of luck — a real shame, and the opposite of what should be the future of TV.