If you are like me, you grew weary of sky-high cable bills and cut the cord, moving to a streaming service for television programming. As I outlined at the time I made the move, the biggest names in the market – YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV – were my two finalists.
I went through the channel listings for each very carefully and chose the one that most closely fit my watching patterns – Hulu +. I was quietly relieved when YouTube TV raised its prices shortly after I made my decision, but what I thought was the clincher occurred on October 1.
At that time, YouTube TV’s agreement to carry 23 regional sports networks (RSNs) expired. Sinclair Broadcast Group, the new owner of the FOX Sports regional networks (and others including YES and the new Cubs Marquee Sports Network), could not come to a financial agreement with YouTube TV. So those channels went dark. This came on the heels of a temporary deal between the two that kept the networks on through the 2020 regular season.
Much to my chagrin, Hulu + Live TV informed customers on Thursday that their agreement with Sinclair had too expired – and once again, the two sides could not come to terms. The Regional Sports Networks will disappear from Hulu + today, October 23.
For those Hulu + subscribers in St. Louis and surrounding areas, this means your access to St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues contests as well as the rest of the programming presented by FOX Sports Midwest is being cut off – with literally no notice.
As the 2021 NHL, NBA and MLB seasons are not yet here, one can wait and hope the impasse can be broken, or one can move once again to another service provider.
Unfortunately, most other non-cable options previously dried up.
Not only are streamers YouTube TV and Hulu + out of the RSN picture, so have been Sling (streaming) and Dish Network (satellite) for months now. In 2019, the two began negotiations with the prior owner of the networks, Disney. The carriage agreement ended and the channels were dropped that July.
Another popular streaming service, fuboTV, removed the RSNs from their offering this January.
From Hulu’s announcement, here is the list of 23:
- FS Arizona
- FS Detroit
- FS Florida
- FS Midwest (including FS Indiana and FS Kansas City)
- FS North (including FS Wisconsin)
- FS Ohio
- FS Prime Ticket
- FS San Diego
- FS South (including FS Tennessee and FS Carolinas)
- FS Southeast
- FS Southwest (including FS Oklahoma and FS New Orleans)
- FS Sun
- FS West
- Marquee Sports Network
- SportsTime Ohio
- YES Network
So, what is left to choose from?
I left YouTube last week for this reason and switched to Hulu Live just to find out today. What other options are there now besides cable?
— Meg Cilley (@megcilley) October 22, 2020
To stay with streaming, there seems just one major service left standing.
RSNs are still available from AT&T TV Now, formerly called DirecTV Now. For RSN access, one would need the AT&T TV Now Max plan, which currently costs $80 per month, a price substantially higher than competitive streaming services. Proceed with caution as AT&T TV Now draws poor marks from consumers due to subsequent price increases and limited channel offerings compared to other steaming services.
Of the non-cable and non-streaming sources, DirecTV’s Sports Pack seems the best choice. For $13.99 extra per month, DirecTV subscribers receive access to over 40 regional and specialty sports networks, including the aforementioned Sinclair properties.
Be aware that DirecTV in all forms continues to hemorrhage customers at an increasing rate while AT&T pushes ahead in its ongoing efforts to try to sell the entire business unit. This paints an uncertain future for those considering a return or making a first-time commitment.
(For those using the FOX Sports GO app to stream RSN content, remember that to utilize this capability, you must first have a subscription to your RSN through a standard cable, satellite or streaming provider – which of course, is the problem in the first place.)
There are packages being sold through Facebook and other sources that offer wide channel selection and appealing prices, but if the deals look too good to be true, there is probably a reason.
In related news, the negative impact to Sinclair’s business is being felt. Sinclair’s regional sports business and its creditors are preparing for a possible restructuring of its roughly $8 billion debt load, reported the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
Glass half-full view
Of course, there is a chance these carriage disputes will be resolved before the 2021 MLB season begins, as well as prior to the resumption of action in the NBA and NHL. But then again, Dish Network and Sling customers have been without their RSNs for 15 months and counting and are more than tired of waiting.
And even if new agreements are eventually struck, what are the chances that higher costs will not be passed on to us, the consumers?
In the meantime, the in-market options that remain are the ones we previously abandoned due to their already high prices.
Enter your zipcode at this website to learn which providers offer FOX Sports Midwest (or the local Sinclair regional sports network) in your area: www.getmyhometeams.com.
To say that Cardinals fans are upset over their narrowing choices is putting it mildly. Here is just a short sample.
— Conner O’Brien (@STLBirdsandBeer) October 22, 2020
There's a common denominator here.
Sling, YouTube, Hulu, Dish Network…. all couldn't negotiate with @WeAreSinclair. They obviously don't care about us regional sports viewers.
— Randy Moehlman (@rmoehlmanVOICE) October 22, 2020
So: DISH, Sling, YouTube, Hulu+ Live have all dropped Fox regional networks. Every time a contract comes up, there are renewal problems. The issue seems to be Fox overpaid for mlb, and now Sinclair is finding providers won’t ante up. Losers: the fans, especially within region.
— Michael Diver (@MJDiv) October 22, 2020
All of them are over priced , I'm done with all of them .
— Random Cardinals (@randomcardinals) October 22, 2020
If they broadcast a baseball game and no one gets the channel, are they really broadcasting the baseball game?
— Paw Paw x 5 Jim (@ImJimR87) October 22, 2020
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