YouTube is positioned to dump major regional sports channels from Sinclair Broadcasting on its YouTube TV cable streaming alternative service.
The culprit: “the rising cost of sports,” per YouTube.
In an e-mail to subscribers, YouTube, which charges $49.95 monthly for the TV service, said it has “been unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair to continue to carry the FOX Regional Sports Networks and YES Network,” which are owned by Sinclair.
On a YES Network FAQ page, the company said it hopes to reach an agreement with YouTube TV. “However, based on the discussions we have had to date, we are not optimistic.”
This is a hefty blow to sports fans, with programming in some 42 cities, and includes 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams, and 12 National Hockey League teams, including the New York Yankees, New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Kings.
The networks go dark on YouTube this Saturday. What YouTube didn’t do was lower the cost of its programming to compensate, as noted by Sinclair in a statement.
The company said it offered to continue negotiating under a short-term extension so that their subscribers could continue to watch their favorite hometown teams. “They’ve not yet responded to this offer. Given the ease with which YouTube TV subscribers can drop the service and switch providers, we are surprised that they’ve chosen this course. At the very least, you have to imagine YouTube TV will be receiving lots of questions from subscribers asking about how much they intend to lower the subscription fee given that they are removing some of the most popular and in-demand programming they carry.”
YouTube TV is one of four major streaming alternatives to cable TV that look at skipping the equipment rental, contracts and higher cost of cable TV by offering many of the same broadcast networks and channels but with fewer options.
YouTube’s $49.99 monthly compares to $55 for the similar Hulu with Live TV, $65 for AT&T Now and $30 for Sling TV. Fubo.tv charges $55 monthly and focuses on sports, while the lowest-priced offering is from Philo, which sells for $20 monthly.
The reason Philo’s prices are lower than the rest: no sports.
The lion’s share of costs and price increases from competitors “go to paying the sports and broadcast networks,” Philo CEO Andrew McCollum told USA TODAY recently.
YouTube has 2 million paying subscribers and could take a subscriber hit with the channel roster changes.
However, YouTube isn’t the only entity to battle with Sinclair over programming costs. The Dish Network lost the networks for several months in 2019 after the two sides couldn’t agree.
Dish’s Sling TV and fubo.tv both dropped the channels recently. The only cable streaming alternative services that still have the teams are AT&T Now and Hulu with Live TV.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter