A contract dispute between Fox Sports Midwest’s parent company and satellite television provider Dish Network continues to keep FSM and other regional sports networks owned by The Walt Disney Company out of Dish’s lineup. Also affected is Sling TV, a video streaming service that Dish owns.
Fox Sports Midwest carries the vast majority of the Cardinals’ telecasts, and the team is in a pennant race as the season’s final two months are beginning. But the impact on the overall fan base isn’t nearly as great as if Spectrum (Charter) or DirecTV had stopped carrying FSM, because those outlets combined have by far the greatest number of Fox Sports Midwest’s subscribers.
The squabble, as usual, is over money. These types of battles usually are settled within a few days, or almost always within a couple weeks. But as this one enters its eighth day Friday, it might be different.
Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen, who spoke this week on a conference call with financial analysts and reporters, had a gloomy outlook for those hoping for a quick return of FSM and similar networks in other markets. He said their asking price now is too much.
“It doesn’t look good that the regional sports will ever be on Dish again,” he said on the call as reported by the trade publication Ad Age(ttps://tinyurl.com/y67py792). “The frustrating thing is, they are not very good economic deals for us. We have real data that tells us that the channels are overpriced.”
Disney is in the process of trying to sell FSM and other regional sports networks to Sinclair Broadcast Group, and the bid is being evaluated by federal regulators. More immediate is this dispute, and Fox’s regional sports networks fired back on a website: https://tinyurl.com/y5byyvau
“. . . Despite our repeated efforts over the past several months, Dish and Sling refused to engage in any substantive discussions to reach a new agreement,” the statement says. “. . . The terms we have offered . . . are in line with what others have agreed, and continue to agree, to.”
In a separate statement, a Fox regional sports networks spokesperson said the company offered to extend its deal with Dish and Sling “under the current terms of our existing agreement, but (they) rejected our offer. We know fans are looking forward to the broadcasts of their hometown teams during the stretch run of the baseball season, and we hope Dish and Sling act to return this programming to their customers.”
Sling President Warren Schlichting didn’t sound optimistic, siding with Dish’s Ergen.
“The model is broken,” he said in the article. “The (regional sports networks) are just not a good deal. So the recommendation is actually to leave those ... off the service long term.”
Ergen knows the move will cost his company customers. But it might eventually gain some who aren’t sports fans and don’t want to pay the high costs for athletics programming.
“We clearly will lose some customers,” he said. “But it’s a very small fraction of our customers that are avid viewers of the regional sports, primarily baseball. . . . I hate it that we lose customers. But I also feel really good about the fact that maybe the vast majority of our customers can get a price break.”