A battle between New York-area regional sports networks had a surprising victor this baseball season. According to Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick, Sportsnet New York (SNY)’s Mets coverage not only posted its own significant gains, it surpassed the ratings of Yankees’ coverage on YES Network for the first time:
— Scott Soshnick (@soshnick) October 3, 2016
A big part of this is about the ongoing carriage dispute between the YES Network (which is 80 per cent owned by and run by Fox, and 20 per cent owned by the Yankees) and Comcast. The agreement for Comcast to carry YES expired during last year’s Yankees’ season, but the two sides reached temporary agreements until the end of the baseball season; when those agreements expired last November and the sides couldn’t come to a deal, Comcast removed YES from its carried programming for around 900,000 homes Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was easier to make that decision then during the network’s winter focus on the Brooklyn Nets (who went 38-44 last year), but the dispute continued through March and past the start of the Yankees’ season in April, and it’s still dragging on. Even the network lobbying Yankees’ fans to switch providers didn’t appear to have enough of an impact to force Comcast to settle.
Part of what’s at issue in that dispute is the per-subscriber fee (it was a substantial $5.36 last year, and Comcast reportedly wanted it cut, while YES reportedly wanted it raised by about 30 per cent), but another part of the problem is apparently about a “most-favored-nation clause” that would protect Comcast if YES wound up striking a better deal with someone else. The dispute’s significant enough that it’s still dragging on, and given the large numbers of households involved, that undoubtedly had an impact on YES’ ratings.
Of course, there were other factors involved here too. It’s possible interest in the Mets (which own 65 per cent of SNY) rose relative to that in the Yankees this year. The Mets made the World Series last year and generated plenty of excitement about their young pitching staff in particular in the process, and while they fell from last year’s 90-72 mark to 87-75, they still had a good campaign and earned a wild-card berth. Meanwhile, the Yankees went from 87-75 with a wild-card berth in 2015 to 84-78 and out of the playoffs this year. SNY has also been closing the gap on YES a bit over the last few years, so this is part of that larger trend. Still, it seems likely the YES carriage dispute with Comcast played a significant role in this ratings shift.
These ratings are good news for Comcast on several fronts, too. For one, they might provide ammunition in the fight with YES, as Comcast’s main point is that not enough of their subscribers watch YES regularly to justify the fees the channel wants. They also help out SNY, which Comcast holds a minority 8 per cent stake in. For Comcast on this front, at the moment, everything truly is awesome.
[Scott Soshnick on Twitter]