It’s been nearly three months — July 26, to be exact — since any of the 21 Fox regional sports networks were available on Dish Network or Sling TV, the latter a streaming service owned by Dish.
That means Dish and Sling customers in the Twin Cities haven’t been able to watch Fox Sports North, which carries almost every Twins, Wild and Timberwolves game (either on the regular or plus channel) as well as the majority of Minnesota United and Lynx games and a lot of college hockey games.
Needless to say, it’s a very important channel for sports fans in this market.
There was a lot of anger when the channels were initially dropped during the Twins/United/Lynx seasons this summer, which I wrote about at the time. A lot of those fans probably either switched carriers to one that did have FSN — easier to do if you have the month-to-month Sling subscription, which I had before dropping it in favor of Hulu + Live TV — or tried to ride out the impasse in hopes that the problem would go away as these things often have in the past.
This is an update of sorts, but I’m sorry to report there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. It’s worth revisiting, though, as the absence of FSN (and the other regional networks in other markets, all of which were purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group in a deal that closed in August) is angering an entirely new set of fans with the NHL, NBA and college hockey seasons underway.
If you’re a Wolves fan with Dish or Sling who doesn’t watch other sports and you tried to tune in for Wednesday night’s opener at Brooklyn, your frustration might be the freshest (particularly since it was an entertaining overtime win for Minnesota).
Here’s just one angry tweet I saw last night:
When the @dish_answers Twitter account replied to the tweet with its typical boilerplate nonsense, the response from @zackmoney was even more frustrated (and on-point, though I omitted an expletive in repeating it below):
“I know, I’ve read your corporate speak a dozen times in the last 3 months. Figure it out.”
Meanwhile, this email arrived from a Wild fan: “Have you any information regarding the stand-off between DISH and Fox Sports North? I cannot get any Wild games, and if no progress is visualized, it is time for me to change providers. Neither party says anything of value, except to blame each other for the impasse.
That last part pretty much sums it up. The two carriers who dropped the channels are saying the networks want too much money, while the RSNs are encouraging people to switch carriers.
If you read the Twitter replies from both the Sling and Dish help accounts, you wouldn’t be very optimistic about the future, though the language is a little different.
Sling has been telling people: “Unfortunately we have been unable to reach an agreement with the channel owner to restore this programming at a fair price. We believe it is unlikely that the channel will return to our service.”
Dish has been telling people: “DISH has made every attempt to extend the contract in an effort to quickly negotiate a fair, long-term deal for our customers, not one that puts customers in the middle again. We are working to bring your channels back at a fair price. We truly appreciate your patience in dealing with these matters.”
When I had Sling, I paid $30 a month (including 50 hours of DVR) primarily to have access to FSN. I dropped it for Hulu (which costs $44.95 a month but has more sports channels). Both have neither a long-term commitment or cancellation fee.
Dish customers are especially boxed in because that service often includes a lengthy contract and expensive termination fee.
A cynic might wonder why Dish is seemingly working harder (or at least posturing as thought it is) to bring the channels back to its core product instead of its less expensive streaming option, but we’ll wait until we see if there’s any progress.
As of now, there seems to be zero momentum to do anything — except, of course, to frustrate fans who pay money to watch local teams and can no longer do that.