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FuboTV, Sinclair RSNs disconnect over pricing differences

While the dawning of the new decade saw a number of retransmission-consent and carriage renewals, some parties did not come to terms, resulting in service disconnections.

Those impacted included subscribers to sports-oriented virtual provider fuboTV Inc., which no longer carries the 21 regional sports networks owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. or YES Network (US), in which Sinclair owns an equity stake.

Sinclair acquired the RSNs last year from The Walt Disney Co. as a condition of the U.S. Department of Justice approving the media conglomerate's purchase of most of 21st Century Fox Inc.'s assets.

In a statement, fuboTV said the stand-alone rates for the RSNs were too high. "As of January 1, 2020, these networks have left fuboTV, like they have with other virtual MVPDs," the streaming provider said.

The Sinclair-owned RSNs have been disconnected from DISH Network Corp.'s primary satellite service, as well its virtual provider, Sling TV, since July 2019.

Sinclair said in a statement that it had offered FuboTV "terms consistent with those agreed to by the many other providers that carry our RSNs — including other OTT providers such as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and AT&T TV Now."

Without the Sinclair-owned networks, fuboTV's RSN roster encompasses New England Sports Network (US), SportsNet New York (US), MSG Network (US), MSG+ (US), AT&T SportsNet Southwest (US) and seven RSNs run by NBCUniversal Media LLC.

Additionally, former Fox cable networks FX (US), FXX (US), FXM (US) and National Geographic Channel (US), now part of the Disney stable of channels, were also removed from fuboTV's offering Jan. 1. The distributor does not have a carriage deal for any Disney networks, including those operated by ESPN Inc.

Elsewhere, four Cox Media Group Inc. stations in which Apollo Global Management Inc.-backed Terrier Media Buyer Inc. secured a majority stake are dark for Verizon Communications Inc. Fios TV customers. The retransmission-consent contracts for WPXI-Pittsburgh, WFXT-Boston, and WSYT and WNYS in Syracuse, N.Y., expired Dec. 31, 2019.

Pay TV operators pay retransmission-consent fees to broadcasters in exchange for permission to carry local stations' signals. Protracted negotiations related to those fees sometimes lead to channel blackouts if a contract expires before a new one is in place.

In a message to customers on the Boston station's website, Cox Media said it negotiated in good faith and floated multiple extension offers to avoid service disruption, but Verizon declined.

Verizon said the stations are seeking increases of more than 70%. The telco said it is committed to reaching a fair agreement.

Verizon was one of five distributors that reached a retransmission-consent renewal with the nation's largest station operator, Nexstar Media Group Inc., on Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, 33 TV stations owned by Hearst TV and AT&T face a 3 p.m. ET deadline on Jan. 3 to reach a new deal. AT&T's contract with Hearst has been twice extended from its Dec. 31, 2019, expiration.