Streaming service YouTube TV has announced it will drop 19 Fox-branded regional sports networks owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group effective October 1 after the two parties failed to reach terms on a renewal agreement.
It is the latest saga in an ongoing carriage dispute between the two sides, which dates back to February when the Google-owned YouTube TV announced it would not carry the RSNs, citing rising costs for the programming.
Shortly afterwards, the two parties struck a short-term agreement to keep the channels available while negotiations on a new distribution agreement continued.
However, the carriage battle soon took a troubled turn when YouTube TV dropped some RSNs in the key US media markets of New York and Los Angeles. Sinclair reached an agreement for 19 of 21 Fox RSNs, but not the Southern California-focused Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket, as well as the New York-based YES Network.
Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket carry games for several US major league teams, including Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels, the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers, and the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League.
YES Network, meanwhile, is typically the most-watched RSN in the US given the New York market size and the high popularity of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees.
Now, the RSNs will be dropped from YouTube TV following the end of the Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, and National Basketball Association regular seasons.
As it remains unclear when the 2020-21 NHL and NBA seasons will begin, in the coming months the move will particularly affect fans of Major League Soccer teams who also have regional deals with the RSNs.
YouTube TV said in a Twitter statement: “To bring you 85+ channels, we periodically renegotiate contracts with content owners. In February, we announced we had negotiated an extension with Sinclair to continue providing Fox Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) through the end of MLB, NHL and NBA seasons.
“Now that the seasons are over, that extension is expiring. Starting October 1, 2020, Fox RSNs will no longer be available on YouTube TV. Members that are impacted will no longer have access to Library recordings from the Fox RSNs. This was a difficult decision made after months of negotiations. We hope we can bring Fox RSNs back in the future,” the streaming service said.
In July, YouTube TV announced a monthly price hike of 30 per cent, moving from $49.99 to $64.99. That sharp price escalation made YouTube TV increasingly resemble the traditional cable bundle it was originally designed to disrupt.
YouTube TV, which early this year surpassed 2 million subscribers, did recently strike a carriage agreement with the National Football League in a deal that will see the NFL Network and NFL RedZone distributed on the over-the-top streaming service.
The service also recently lost regional rights to Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC to Amazon.
Sinclair said it still trying to negotiate with the Google-owned YouTube TV.
“While we are disappointed that YouTube will discontinue carriage of the RSNs, we remain in discussions in an effort to find a mutually acceptable path to returning the RSNs to YouTube TV,” said Barry Faber, Sinclair’s president of distribution and network relations. “We intend to keep the public informed as to the progress of these discussions so that YouTube TV subscribers can make informed decisions regarding how to view the extremely popular programming carried on these RSNs.”