If you’re a YouTube TV subscriber and your favorite sports team’s games are broadcast on a regional sports channel, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be unable to watch those games starting March 1.
YouTube TV announced Thursday that it failed to reach a carriage agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting Corp., the company that owns the Fox Sports regional channels and the YES Network. The channels won’t be carried on YouTube TV after Saturday and a bunch of sports fans will not have a way to watch a majority of their teams’ games.
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
We do not take this decision lightly. This is a reflection of the rising cost of sports content. You may have noticed several other TV services have also decided to remove FOX Regional Sports Networks from their lineups.— YouTube TV (@YouTubeTV) February 27, 2020
To bring you 70+ channels, we have contracts with content owners that are periodically renegotiated. Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of FOX Regional Sports Networks and YES Network, is one of the largest owners of local TV stations in the US.— YouTube TV (@YouTubeTV) February 27, 2020
As you can see in the tweets above, YouTube TV is framing the decision to drop the regional sports channels as one that helps it best serve its customers. But it sure seems doubtful that YouTube TV will cut its monthly fees accordingly in March when the sports channels are dropped from its lineup.
Customers never win when it comes to carriage disputes between channels and TV providers. And sports fans are big losers in this dispute. Over 40 teams across MLB, the NBA and the NHL have deals with the channels now owned by Sinclair. That includes the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs and their new TV network and myriad other baseball, basketball and hockey teams.
YouTube TV is even the presenting sponsor of the 2020 NBA Finals. Yet over half of NBA teams have broadcast agreements with Sinclair-owned sports channels, meaning that YouTube TV is set to sponsor the NBA’s championship event despite denying a ton of NBA fans access to broadcasts of their teams’ games.
by my count, Fox regional/Sinclair networks have rights to 17 NBA, 15 MLB and 11 NHL teams.— 506 Sports (@506sports) February 27, 2020
YouTube TV has become an appealing lower-cost streaming TV service for people looking to cut the cost of their TV bills. And one of the major reasons the service was appealing is because it had the rights to most sports channels. It’s hard to see how sports fans who changed to YouTube TV in part because these channels were offered would want to stick around.
And changing TV providers is going to be the only way most local fans affected by this decision will be able to watch their favorite teams starting Sunday. MLB infamously has archaic blackout rules when it comes to its MLB.TV streaming service, so simply signing up for that if you’re in Chicago and want to watch the Cubs won’t work in lieu of YouTube TV.
The move also comes after Google, the owner of YouTube TV, quietly announced that it would halt installations of its Fiber TV service in the markets where it provides internet and TV service. Fiber TV was Google’s answer to cable and satellite television. But the company said on Feb. 4 that it would stop new Fiber TV connections and instead encouraged new subscribers to subscribe to either FuboTV or YouTube TV instead.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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