Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Bally Sports regional networks, which have long been absent from major streaming pay-TV bundles like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling, have reached a carriage deal with FuboTV.
The deal will see the 19 RSNs added to Fubo’s lineup in the coming weeks. The agreement deepens the ties between the companies, which already have a carriage pact for Sinclair’s local TV stations as well as the Tennis Channel and Chicago’s Marquee Sports Network.
Fubo, which launched in 2015 as a sports-centric bundle, has evolved into a general entertainment service with more than 1.2 million subscribers. It still trails the leaders in internet-delivered bundles, though, as YouTube and Hulu are at 5 million and 4.4 million subscribers, respectively.
Like its rivals in the streaming pay-TV sector, Fubo had long pushed back on Sinclair’s aggressive terms for the former Fox-branded RSNs, which the company acquired for $10.6 billion in an auction prompted by the Disney-Fox deal. Established in the 1990s and 2000s when pay-TV subscriber numbers were climbing, the RSN business model features hefty fees paid by distributors, which had historically been able to reap advertising rewards from high local tune-in for games. While the elevated fee structure has always introduced a degree of friction in distribution talks, the decline of linear viewership as well as cord-cutting in recent years have undercut the original business proposition of RSNs.
Given that new reality, a number of major distributors including Dish, which operates a traditional satellite service as well as Sling TV, have balked at the elevated carriage fees. Bally also has rolled out its own stand-alone streaming outlet, Bally Sports+, further complicating the picture.
“RSNs are integral to FuboTV’s sports-first content strategy and our mission to superserve local passionate sports fans,” said Henry Ahn, chief business officer, FuboTV. “We are very pleased to bring Fubo subscribers significant local sports coverage through our new partnership with Bally Sports, the nation’s leader in local sports rights. Sinclair has been a great partner and we’re pleased that we were able to work together well to get a deal done that is meaningful and beneficial for both sides.”
Will Bell, SVP, head of distribution and network relations for Sinclair, said Fubo “has long been associated with connecting sports fans to their favorite teams and we are thrilled to be expanding our partnership to include the Bally Sports regional sports networks across their platform.”
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