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Volume 26 No. 134
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Fox-Branded RSNs Pulled From Dish Network, Sling TV

Dish Network viewers do not have access to the Fox Sports-branded RSNs anymore after those channels were pulled from both Dish Network and Sling TV at 12:00pm ET on Friday. Additionally, no agreement appears to be on the horizon. A statement emailed from a Fox Sports Regional Networks spokesperson says, "The Fox RSNs offered to extend Dish and Sling under the current terms of our existing agreement, but Dish and Sling rejected our offer.” In a statement, Dish Network said that it offered “a short-term extension, in an effort to quickly negotiate a fair, long-term deal for our customers." Dish: "The RSNs offered an extension that would put the new expiration date up against the 2020 Major League Baseball Opening Day.” The move affects channels like YES Network, FS North and FS South, which carry the division-leading Yankees, Twins and Braves. It also affects FS Wisconsin (Brewers) and FS Midwest (Cardinals), which have posted the top two local MLB ratings so far this season. Dish’s deal to carry the RSNs ended Sunday night, but the two sides signed an extension until 12:00pm Friday. Sources said that no progress was made during the interim time period, leading the Fox group to deauthorize the satellite provider from carrying the channels. The issue comes down to price and flexibility -- Dish wanted the ability to put some of the RSNs on premium tiers. When the RSNs signed an affiliate deal with Charter in June, its execs believed it had developed a template for future deals with distributors like Dish. 

NOT A REAL SURPRISE: The move to let the Fox Sports-branded RSNs go dark does not come as a surprise. Dish has a reputation for being a tough negotiator -- it dropped HBO in November. Dish also is looking for areas to cut costs, and RSNs are among the most expensive channels on pay-TV. Fox is counting on fan pressure to mount as the MLB season enters its stretch run. MLB games typically bring the highest ratings to RSNs. Dish Network is depending on viewer apathy, believing that fans will not find new providers if a channel is dropped. Comcast, for example, dropped YES Network in Connecticut and New Jersey for the '16 season, and sources said its subscriber losses were not significant. Sinclair bought the Fox-branded RSNs in May for $10.6B. The purchase still needs to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. In the interim, the RSNs have been operating as a holding group separate from Disney. Jeff Krolik is running the group; industry vet Mike Angus is running affiliate negotiations for the RSNs. Sinclair has not been involved in the negotiations. Meanwhile, Dish Network also is negotiating with Disney for the FX and NatGeo channels that were part of Disney’s purchase of the 21st Century Fox entertainment assets. Disney and Dish signed a short extension earlier this week. It is not known when that extension is set to expire.