Sinclair and Charter have reached a one-month extension on their carriage deal, avoiding Sinclair’s local networks and RSNs from being dropped from Charter’s cable systems.
Charter is the country’s second-largest cable operator (behind just Comcast), serving customers in 41 states. Some of Charter’s markets are hotbeds for the Bally Sports RSNs, including Southern California, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Dallas, and Milwaukee. Back in January, SBJ reported that negotiations between the two parties were ongoing, but they were “far apart,” with Charter seeking flexibility about how they could offer the RSNs.
Losing access to Charter’s customer base would be devastating for Sinclair and its RSNs. That’s a whole lot of subscribers paying monthly RSN fees that suddenly wouldn’t be paying those fees, at the risk of simplifying this too much. Even if a new deal keeps the RSNs on Charter’s systems, but on a sports tier, that’s a lot of subscriber fees that will be disappearing, even with the increased cost of those expanded packages.
Sinclair’s also losing some leverage with this extension. The start of the MLB season has been pushed back by at least a week. Both the NBA and NHL regular seasons end in April. If the two parties reach the end of March without an extension, Charter has even less incentive to get a deal done for the RSNs, especially if the MLB lockout continues rolling along.
This has potential to get out of hand in a hurry for Sinclair, and it seems like it would be imperative for them to get a deal done sooner rather than later.