One of the facts of modern baseball fan life is that baseball games are almost exclusively on cable TV. One of the facts about modern cable TV is that cable operators pay sports networks money in order to carry the channel on their system. One of the facts about that kind of a deal is that, sometimes, the cable company and the sports network can’t agree on terms, thereby keeping the channel off the cable system and thereby keeping cable subscribers from watching the games.
We’ve seen this play out a number of times. Most of the time it’s a short-term dispute over money which keeps teams off of your TV for a little while. Sometimes — such as with the case with the the Los Angeles Dodgers and cable carriers for about half of the Los Angeles market — the carriage dispute lasts years and years, effectively preventing a huge swath of fans from watching the games, basically forever.
I mention all of this because we learned this afternoon that a pretty big carriage dispute is going down at the moment that could affect the local broadcasts of half of all Major League Baseball teams.
YouTube TV announced today that it has failed to reach a carriage agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting Corp. Sinclair is the company which owns the Fox Sports regional channels (Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Detroit, etc.) and the YES Network which broadcasts the Yankees. Those sports channels won’t be carried on YouTube TV after this Saturday. Those channels cover 15 of the 30 big league clubs. It’s not just baseball, though: this impacts over 40 teams across MLB, the NBA and the NHL whose games are carried on the Sinclair-owned stations.
No one knows how long this dispute will last. It could just be a hiccup in negotiations. It could, like the Dodgers’ situation, last a long time. Each side will, inevitably, cast it as the fault of the other side. Standard business dynamics that all moves at the speed of business, as they say.
An irony here, though, if it’s the latter scenario: YouTube TV is a primary sponsor of the World Series. If this lasts a long time, the company could be paying Major League Baseball a lot of money to advertise for a service that does not carry half of its teams’ games.
Modern life is complicated, isn’t it?
DISCLOSURE: NBC Universal is owned by Comcast, which is obviously a cable company itself. Like all cable companies, Comcast negotiates carriage agreements with networks. This website has no information on, impact on or insight into those sorts of agreements or discussions about those sorts of agreements between Comcast and various networks or between any other cable carrier and other networks.