Dish Network will drop regional NBC Sports networks, following Sling TV’s lead

Dish says the channels are too expensive to carry.
(Image: Dish Network Corporation/Graphic: The Desk)

Less than a week after Dish Network confirmed rumors that its streaming service Sling TV would stop offering some regional sports channels next month, the company has now confirmed that its traditional satellite offering will suffer the same fate.

The issue concerns a half-dozen regional sports channels operated by Comcast under the NBC Sports brand. Also affected is SportsNet NY, which Comcast operates through a consortium with other broadcasters and financial stakeholders.

Customers of both Dish Network and Sling TV will lose access to the channels on April 1 when the company’s re-transmission agreement with Comcast comes to an end.

Executives at Dish Network say they were unable to reach a new agreement with reasonable financial terms to continue carrying the channels.

In recent years, cable and satellite companies have opted to drop channels as programmers demand more money in exchange for a distributor’s right to carry them. Distributors say the fee increases demanded by programmers leads to bill increases for customers; programmers argue they’re simply asking for what they think is fair and point to the increasing cost of producing and securing rights to live sports and other shows.

Some distributors have ultimately acquiesced to their demands, inking deals — terms of which are never disclosed — that ultimately lead to higher bills for customers. Dish Network has been a rare outlier in the trend, often choosing to drop channels that it deems are too expensive to justify carrying on its satellite and streaming services.

Such was the case last year when Dish Network decided to pull two dozen Fox Sports-branded regional channels (now called Bally Sports) that were acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group. In public comments, Dish Network’s founder and chairman Charles Ergen said the channels were unlikely to return.

In similar comments made recently to a television marketing blog, a Sling TV executive said regional sports channels represented a poor value for cable, satellite and streaming customers because viewership figures often don’t justify the expensive involved in carrying them.

Nothing in the letters sent to Dish Network or Sling TV customers pointed to a strong effort by the entertainment company to continue carrying the regional NBC Sports channels. But it comes at a time when Dish Network is trying to lure new customers in and keep existing ones through the offering of a new sports betting feature in partnership with DraftKings.

The feature allows Dish Network customers with “Hopper” set-top boxes to view betting odds and place bets on certain games in progress, including telecasts of NCAA basketball and NHL hockey games.

That might be difficult to do without the Bally and NBC Sports regional channels: These channels have local broadcast agreements in place with the NHL to provide local telecasts of games played by certain teams. Those games won’t be available to Dish Network customers unless they make a new agreement with Sinclair and Comcast to carry those channels once again.

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