Sinclair Continues to Play Hardball By Making Availability of Bally Sports RSNs Difficult

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Over the last 2 years, the amount of streaming providers that carry Sinclair’s Bally Sports Regional Networks has been reduced to one — DIRECTV STREAM.

NBA owner Mark Cuban had to spend over $2 million of his own money to give Mavericks fans a way to stream games on their local Bally Sports RSNs via DIRECTV STREAM. With the Bally Sports direct-to-consumer streaming service experiencing a few hiccups, it has become more evident that streaming Bally RSNs is extremely challenging for most fans.

Not only are streaming services left outside of the Bally Sports RSNs-streaming arena, but traditional TV providers are losing the RSNs too. Sinclair is notoriously difficult to work with and Dish no longer carries any of the Bally Sports RSNs, and Comcast dropped MSG Networks on October 1.

We reported that Dish and Sling TV reached a multi-year carriage agreement to keep Sinclair’s 144 local stations and the Tennis Channel but RSNs were nowhere to be found. As far as the RSNs go, it’s looking like game over as the announcement did not make any mention of ongoing negotiations.

Sinclair is even playing hardball with Idaho-based Next Gen broadcast startup Evoca. Evoca leverages ATSC 3.0 to offer a paid TV service that gives subscribers the best of broadcast and broadband at an affordable price of $49 per month. Recently, we reported that Evoca added the Altitude RSN to its lineup, and new subscribers could get the service at a special price of $9.50 per month for life.

Sports will be key to Evoca’s growth. They’ve attempted to expand their RSN lineup by adding Bally Sports Arizona but Sinclair is playing hardball according to a recent report by Cablefax:

“We’ve been trying for a year to give Bally Arizona our money… and we can’t get a deal done,” Evoca CEO Todd Achilles told CFX. The companies aren’t able to reach an agreement because of retransmission consent. Achilles continued, “they want us to pay retrans in Idaho and Boise for their free over-the-air signal so we can pay them for the sports network in Phoenix, and just refuse to do a deal with us unless there’s a commitment there. Even when we signal, ‘alright, this just makes no sense, but we want to carry your RSN to Phoenix,’ we don’t make any progress.”

“More and more, we sort of think of ourselves as this next-gen RSN. What you can do with 3.0 is break out of that old dichotomy between teams and leagues making this decision of ‘we have to go free over-the-air or we’re going to go subscription behind a paywall,’ he said. “The cool thing with 3.0 and how we’re doing it is you can do both simultaneously. We’ve got the free [broadcast] channels next to channels that are behind a paywall, and it lets us do some kind of cool stuff.

Sinclair’s goal of launching their own Bally Sports streaming app in 2022 is up in the air. They declined to comment in the CFX story, and they continue to make it harder for fans to stream games to the point where leagues are stepping in

If providers like Evoca are offering Sinclair their fair share of money to broadcast the RSNs, or if streaming services begin adopting a fee model like fubo TV, Sinclair is running out of reasons to give fans options to watch their teams, and the leagues will take note when its time to renegotiate contracts. 

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