ROOT Sports’ agreement with Dish Network expires, leaving subscribers with no chance to watch Mariners and Kraken
Dish Network subscribers hoping to see the final weekend of the Mariners’ unlikely playoff surge are now out of luck.
Ditto for hockey fans hoping to watch the Kraken’s first season in the NHL on Dish, or NBA fans getting ready to attend Portland Trail Blazers games. A transportation agreement between the satellite provider and Mariners-owned ROOT Sports Northwest expired Thursday without any plans for a new contract.
AT&T Sports Networks owns a minority stake in ROOT Sports and manages the Regional Sports Network (RSN) on behalf of the majority shareholder Mariners, including the negotiation of all transportation agreements.
“The current RSN model is fundamentally broken,” Brian Neylon, Chairman of Dish Group, said in a statement. “This model requires almost all customers to pay for RSNs when only a small percentage of customers actually watch them. “
Dish alleged that ROOT Sports and two other RSN entities operated by AT&T Sports in Denver and Pittsburgh affected by Thursday’s decision “are demanding rates that would be passed on to almost all customers, whether they watch RSNs or not.” This unfair model has become obsolete with the rise of pay-per-view options and specialized streaming services. “
NESN in Massachusetts is now the only remaining RSN carried by Dish.
For years, Dish transported the Mariners to ROOT Sports and its predecessor Fox Sports Net, but industry insiders say the provider pushed for a drastic change in how any future deal would be structured. The development is expected to impact a six-figure number of subscribers who watch ROOT Sports through Dish, many in rural areas of the multi-state territory covered by the RSN.
According to a source, a Dish renewal proposal saw ROOT Sports become an additional pay-per-view offering with the satellite provider charging subscribers over and above their current fees to view the network. The proposal asked Dish and the RSN entities to share the revenue from these additional charges.
In a statement issued by AT&T Sports following Dish’s removal of networks, Vice President Nina Kinch confirmed that her company “offered commonly accepted market terms” for the three affected RSN entities that Dish had previously agreed to. But this time, she added, Dish “has instead chosen to ditch our networks, forcing its customers to sacrifice access to their favorite regional sports teams.”
“The terms proposed by DISH were not acceptable and in fact were not accepted by any NSN in the country.”
Both sides had known for some time that the partnership would end unless there was a last-minute reversal, but they were contractually prohibited from commenting in public. In the same AT&T Sports statement, Seattle-based company president Patrick Crumb said, “We are not surprised that DISH Network has chosen to deprive its customers of our regional sports networks. As each of the country’s regional sports network agreements with DISH has been renewed over the past few years, we’ve seen them remove every RSN from their channel lineup.
Local options for Dish customers wishing to purchase ROOT Sports might be to switch to Comcast or DirecTV, or to subscribe to a streaming service. DirecTV Stream and fuboTV have entered into agreements to broadcast ROOT Sports programming in various packages this coming season.