Sinclair Strikes Broad Distribution Deal With Charter Including RSNs, But Problems Remain

Gaining some ground in carriage for its troubled regional sports networks, Sinclair Broadcast Group has made a broad distribution deal for those networks, its stations and other channels with big cable operator Charter Communications.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The deal includes Sinclair’s 19 Bally Sports RSN networks, Sinclair's owned local broadcast stations, Tennis Channel, Marquee Sports Network and the YES Network, in which Sinclair is a joint venture partner.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, Charter had 15.22 million pay TV subscribers -- second to that of the big U.S. cable operator Comcast, which has 18 million

Sinclair has had trouble getting carriage among new virtual pay TV providers, as well as legacy pay TV providers including Dish Network.



Other virtual pay TV providers not taking on Sinclair's RSNs include YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV. Distributors have complained that there is a high affiliate fee cost to airing those networks.

Separately, Sinclair continues to pursue launching RSNs via direct-to-consumer streaming platforms. But this effort is focused currently on five teams: the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals.

Sinclair has incurred over $8 billion in debt obligations with its RSN business, Diamond Sports Group. In 2019, Sinclair agreed to acquire 21 RSNs from Walt Disney (formerly Fox Sports regional networks) for $10.6 billion.

For its part, Major League Baseball has been mulling the idea of launching a more comprehensive streaming service for all local baseball games -- possibly starting up in 2023, according to reports.

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