The 2016 New York Yankees season begins today (thanks to a postponement of yesterday’s opener with the Astros), but many in the greater New York area won’t be able to watch their team because of the ongoing dispute between Comcast and YES Network.
A YES Network spokesperson released the following statement, which seemingly delivers a death blow to the hopes of an eleventh-hour deal before the Opening Day game.
“Opening Day should be a time of celebration for baseball fans everywhere, but Comcast continues to deny close to a million of its subscribers access to New York Yankees telecasts on the YES Network. Comcast should restore YES to its lineup and honor the deal to which it agreed last season so that YES’ Yankees telecasts, among the most popular sports programming in the U.S., are available to all Comcast viewers in the Tri-State area.”
That’s unfortunate. The Yankees will have their share of games on national television (including their opener with the Astros on ESPN), but that’s of no use to the diehard fan that watches every game.
I think this Comcast/YES dispute also highlights the unique position Comcast is in as both a provider and an owner of multiple RSNs. We’re seeing it play out to a lesser extent in Los Angeles with Time Warner (also a provider and RSN owner), but Comcast has footholds in plenty of major markets and can throw their weight around more.
We already saw what happens when a region refuses to play ball with a new network (how you doin, CSN Houston?), but I’m curious what will happen if a provider goes to war with Comcast in a market with an pre-existing Comcast RSN and another RSN – Boston and Washington DC come to mind, to name two examples.
Will DirecTV, AT&T, and other providers flip the proverbial bird to Comcast like Comcast is doing to Fox and YES Network? It remains to be seen, but should definitely be kept in mind when Comcast’s carriage contracts with providers come up for renewal.