There were already some holes in the YouTube TV deal with Sinclair for carriage of the Fox regional sports networks (bought by Sinclair last May), as that deal didn’t include YES, Fox Sports West, and Fox Sports Prime Ticket. And it turns out that even for the 19 RSNs that are now back on YouTube TV, they’re not back for all of those who used to be able to get them, as it seems the distribution of certain RSNs has been particularly cut down. A YouTube TV tweet Thursday hinted at this:
We reached a deal that will keep RSNs for many of our members. If you will continue to have access to your local FOX RSNs, you’ll get a follow-up email from us today. If access to any of your local FOX RSNs is removed, you’ll see an in-app notification confirming the change today
— YouTube TV (@YouTubeTV) March 5, 2020
As for some of the specific networks lost in certain zip codes, lots of people replied to Sports Business Journal‘s John Ourand with what they’ve lost under this new deal.
My mentions are filled with YouTube TV subscribers who no longer get the Fox RSNs, suggesting that YouTube's deal with Sinclair is only for subs in the primary market rather than the regional market. I will retweet some of the comments.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) March 6, 2020
I lost FS Ohio, but still have FS Indiana. So the deal definitely changed some things. https://t.co/uM7n7Sh8ws
— Jay Rigdon (@jayrigdon5) March 6, 2020
Live in Charleston-Huntington, WV market and had Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Cincinnati and SportTime Ohio under previous deal; lost all in the new agreement w/no explanation as of yet from @YouTubeTV. Did Sinclair completely rework the home market territories in this new deal?
— Tom Hunter (@tphunter) March 6, 2020
It seems to be true. For instance, Fox Sports Southwest is available in the Dallas area. But it’s not available in West Texas towns like Lubbock/Midland. It was available in those towns until March 5th.
— DRM1185 (@DRM1185) March 6, 2020
Lincoln NE used to have fox sports kc and I think Midwest. Now I don’t think we have either. 😣
— J Smith (@jsmith402) March 6, 2020
Lost FoxSports South and Sports South here in Charleston.
— Darren AuH2O (@DarrenGoldwater) March 6, 2020
Same in Florida Panhandle. Lost both channels. I had to cancel and switch to Hulu with live tv. Sucks because I loved youtube tv. They lost a 2 year customer
— Dwight Burke (@destinhog) March 6, 2020
@YouTubeTV @TeamYouTube so…I live in Arkansas. I felt pretty good yesterday about my RSN staying on your channel options. Today it’s gone. Explain please? @Ourand_SBJ
— Sam Pasthing (@sampjd) March 6, 2020
FS Midwest/FS Midwest+ and FS North is gone for me in Des Moines. FS Kansas City is gone in Omaha as well.
— Jason Garnatz (@JasonGarnatz) March 6, 2020
This is misleading at best. In Birmingham we had both fss and fsse. Now we only have fss. Braves games are split between the two networks.
— Matthew Jones (@HowieJones519) March 6, 2020
I’m in Western Kentucky and I lost Fox Sports Ohio and Tennessee. I really only care about Cardinals games, but I lost the Reds also.
— Rodney Sparks (@RodneySparksDC) March 6, 2020
I’m in Columbus, Ohio. We retained fox sports Ohio (blur jackets, reds, cavs), but did lose sportstime ohio (Columbus crew & Cleveland Indians).
Looks like Cleveland markets retained all fox RSN’s.
Disappointed to say the least as an Indians fan.
— Mark McClure (@MarkMcClureCPC) March 6, 2020
May wanna double check your guide and channels. They pulled FSNSE AND FSNTN for me. @YouTubeTV sold out and did a per customer/zip code deal with Sinclair. So Joe in GA will get more channels than me for the same price. What a crock move by @TeamYouTube.
— Seth Butler (@NPTSethButler) March 6, 2020
It’s notable that this doesn’t appear to be about out-of-market channels, but rather limiting the distribution of certain channels to only certain parts of their market. So out-of-market streaming packages like MLB.tv won’t solve the problem for those affected, especially given baseball’s particularly restrictive local blackouts.
At this point in time, the main option to get these channels appears to be switching to another provider. And when it comes to streaming bundles rather than traditional cable or satellite, the main ones currently carrying the Fox RSNs appear to be AT&T TV Now (the streaming bundle that used to be DirecTV Now), AT&T TV (the new streaming bundle that’s closer to conventional TV, and is designed as more of a U-Verse/DirecTV replacement), and Hulu + Live TV. Dish-owned Sling dropped the Fox RSNs last summer, and fuboTV dropped the Fox RSNs in January. There’s some chance that a deal could get done with one or the other (even Dish has appeared more open to those discussions lately) at some point, but for now, the options are pretty limited for those affected by this YouTube TV move. And as always with any switch, it’s worth checking to make sure you can get the channels you want in your area first.
It’s interesting to see YouTube TV doing this. On one hand, there are presumably some cost savings for them, especially if they’re not offering a discount to those who used to get certain RSNs and now don’t. And it seems better for them to have even a limited deal for 19 of the 22 RSNs in question (19 of the 21 Fox-branded RSNs and then YES) than to have no deal, especially considering the heavy focus they’ve placed on sports in advertisements for the service (and in sponsorship deals from MLB games to the NBA Finals to the World Series). This lets them say “Yes, we have the RSNs!” But reducing which customers can get those RSNs has led to some customer backlash and provider switching, and they’re still missing those New York and LA RSNs altogether. And this approach means new potential YouTube TV subscribers will have to check very, very closely to see that they’ll actually get the RSNs they want.