Dish And Sinclair Bury The Hatchet With New Carriage Deal For Local Stations, Tennis Channel — But No Update On Regional Sports Nets

Dish Network and Sinclair Broadcast Group, the No. 2 local TV owner in the U.S., have reached a carriage agreement keeping 144 stations in 86 markets on the air.

The deal also includes the Tennis Channel, with the network and the stations remaining on Dish TV satellite service and internet-delivered bundle Sling TV. As of September 30, Dish had 8.4 million satellite customers and another 2.6 million on Sling, for a total of 11 million.

In announcing the pact, the companies did not mention the 19 Bally sports networks operated by a group of investors led by Sinclair. Dish dropped the RSNs in the summer of 2019.

While all pay-TV contract negotiations are fraught, especially in the current climate of cord-cutting and declining viewership, Dish has repeatedly vowed to hold the line on programming fees. During an earnings call last August, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said of Sinclair, “We’re not interested in taxing our customers.”

Known for decades for his brinkmanship in carriage negotiations, Ergen has waged long-term wars with HBO and Univision in recent years and balked at costly sports programming. Resistance to fee increases has only intensified since Dish began to pivot as a company away from pay-TV and toward the wireless telecom sector.

Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley has been facing scrutiny on Wall Street as the company navigates challenges in Diamond Sports Group, the debt-laden entity formed when it took control of the RSNs. During an earnings call with analysts this month, he declined to comment on the state of talks, but said Sinclair and Dish were in “very short-term renewals” aimed at keeping the signals from going dark.

“We are pleased to have reached a multi-year agreement with Sinclair after months of negotiations,” said Brian Neylon, group president, Dish TV. “Sinclair has been a good long-term partner to work with. Both sides have been committed to keeping our customers top of mind and not putting them in the middle of our negotiations. After several contract extensions, we have arrived at a fair agreement that benefits all parties, especially our customers.”

William Bell, Sinclair’s Head of Distribution & Network Relations, described the agreement as a validation of the company’s programming offerings. “Our agreement with Dish reflects the continued importance that distributors place on local and national broadcast content. We look forward to continuing to provide Dish viewers with the high-quality and highly-desired entertainment, and timely local news that they depend on every day.”

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