Hulu drops Sinclair sports networks from live TV service

(Logo: Sinclair Broadcast Group/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

The Walt Disney Company’s live streaming television service Hulu with Live TV will drop Sinclair-owned regional Fox Sports Networks, making it the third major pay TV provider to remove the channels in less than two years.

The move was announced in an email sent to subscribers on Thursday, some of which were subsequently posted to Reddit and other social media websites.

The channels will be dropped from Hulu’s lineup starting Friday, the company said. It offered no reason why the networks would be removed, but the likeliest reason involves a lapse in agreement between Disney and Sinclair to carry them.

Sinclair has struggled over the last two years to forge new agreements between it and pay TV companies to distribute the two dozen Fox Sports-branded regional networks, which typically come bundled with Sinclair’s other regional sports offerings YES Network, the Tennis Channel and Stadium. The broadcaster best known for its portfolio of local television stations acquired the regional Fox Sports networks from Disney following the studio’s purchase of film and television assets from 21st Century Fox.

In 2019, Dish Network became the first major provider to remove Sinclair-owned sports networks from its lineup, making them unavailable to the company’s satellite and streaming TV customers. Charlie Ergen, the company’s co-founder and chairman, said the channels would likely not return — and they have not.

Earlier this year, Alphabet-owned YouTube TV said it would also drop the channels after failing to reach an agreement with Sinclair to carry them. People familiar with the move said the dispute involved the amount of money Sinclair was requesting for carriage of the channels coupled with a desire to have YouTube TV carry Stadium.

YouTube TV and Sinclair eventually agreed on a temporary extension for some of its sports channels. That agreement ended October 1. The channels have not been available to YouTube TV subscribers since.

Sinclair paid $9.6 billion to acquire the regional sports networks from Disney, and its struggles to renew agreements over the channels have left some analysts urging the broadcaster to cut their losses and sell them off.

Outside of cable and DirecTV, Sinclair sports networks remain available to streamers via AT&T TV Now in an $80 a month package that costs substantially more compared to other Internet-only offerings.

Thanks for reading and supporting The Desk. If you have a question, comment or news tip, send a message by email or text, or connect on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Also, check out our new membership service The Desk: Pro Access for exclusive reporting, news scoops and in-depth analysis.