We knew that when the Sinclair Broadcast Group purchased the Fox Regional Sports Networks, including Fox Sports Kansas City, there might be some changes. Their CEO talked about integrating sports gambling into broadcasts, and some worried about political messaging infiltrating broadcasts.
But what should be more of a concern is Sinclair’s reputation for tough negotiations. Already they have dragged out negotiations with the Royals on a new television deal for this year, and although they appear to have the basics on a deal worked out, it will be for far fewer years than anticipated. Now comes word negotiations have broken down between Sinclair and YouTube TV, and games on Fox Regional Sports Networks will not be carried on the streaming channel beginning this weekend.
We purchase rights from Sinclair to distribute content to you. Despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair. As a result, we will no longer offer FOX Regional Sports Networks, including YES Network, beginning February 29th.— YouTube TV (@YouTubeTV) February 27, 2020
Sinclair brings enormous leverage to the table now, with the Fox RSNs carrying coverage for 15 teams, plus Yankees coverage with the YES Network, and they were a partner with the Cubs on the new Marquee Sports Network. They have sought this leverage to get carriers to their terms on fees, but Youtube TV seemingly balked at that asking price. Sling, another streaming service, dropped Fox RSNs last summer after talks broke down, as did DISH Network and Fubo.
Where does that leave Royals fans? For most cable and satellite subscribers other than DISH, you should be fine. There are still a few streaming options, Hulu carries Fox Sports TV at $54.99 a month, and AT&T TV Now carries it on its max package at $80 a month. Of course, if you wanted to use MLB TV, the Royals are still blacked out locally.
This is terrible for baseball fans, and it seems bad for the sport of baseball itself, to leave so many of its loyal customers in the dark, just as games are about to begin. Of course, the exclusivity of games is part of why these TV deals are so lucrative to broadcasters in the first place, so to use them as leverage to maximize profit should be expected. But long-term, if a new generation of fans is increasingly watching television through streaming options, and those fans are unable to access your product, how can you grow your game for the next generation?