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Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket, YES dropped from Dish Network in contract dispute

Mike Trout
Angels outfielder Mike Trout fouls out against the New York Yankees.
(Michael Nelson / EPA)

Dish Network subscribers in Southern California are without their Angels and Mike Trout fix because of a dispute over fees.

The Englewood, Colo.-based satellite TV service announced Friday that it is no longer carrying Fox Sports West, Fox Sports San Diego, Prime Ticket and 19 other regional sports networks that were previously part of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox entertainment company.

The channels temporarily are in the custody of the Walt Disney Co., pending a $10-billion sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group — a transaction that was announced this spring.

Dish’s Sling TV streaming service also is no longer carrying the regional sports networks, including the YES network in New York. The blackout began at 9 a.m. Pacific Time Friday and affected an estimated 500,000 homes in the Los Angeles region.

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“The regional sports TV business model is broken,” Andy LeCuyer, Dish’s senior vice president of programming, said in a statement. “It relies on the majority of customers subsidizing the slim minority who actually watch these channels. RSNs should be like a ticket to the ballpark — fans who want to watch the game should be the ones who pay for it.”

Dish said that it offered a short-term extension with the hope of striking a long-term deal, but representatives of the sports networks wanted a nine-month extension to next spring, just before the start of Major League Baseball’s 2020 season — something Dish was unwilling to do. Sinclair is expected to take ownership of the channels later this year.

A Disney representative was not immediately available for comment.

Regional sports networks are among the highest-priced channels in television, commanding $2 to $6 per month per subscriber home. Consulting firm Kagan, a division of S&P Global Market Intelligence, estimates that the Fox Sports West channel receives fees of $3.34 per month, per subscriber home. Pay TV distributors have long chafed at the cost, which can be triple the amount that a distributor pays for CNN or USA Network.

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“The Fox RSNs offered to extend Dish and Sling under the current terms of our existing agreement, but Dish and Sling rejected our offer,” a Fox Sports spokeswoman said in a statement. “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.”

The spat is the latest in a flurry of high-profile blackouts, including last weekend’s dispute between AT&T, which owns DirecTV, and CBS Corp., which owns the nation’s most watched network. An estimated 6.6 million AT&T customer homes — including 1.5 million in the Los Angeles area — now are without their CBS station in their channel lineups.

Analysts believe that the CBS and Nexstar dispute might drag on until the start of the NFL season in early September.

The Dish dispute over regional sports network fees comes in the middle of the baseball season. It could annoy fans of surging teams — like the Angels — that are trying to make a run for the playoffs.

With more than 15 million customers, Dish is the nation’s fourth largest pay-TV company.


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