Charter, Sinclair reach distribution deal for Bally Sports RSNs

Charter Communications and Sinclair Broadcast Group have reached a broad distribution agreement that will see the cable operator continue to carry the broadcaster’s regional sports networks and local broadcast stations, among others.

The deal, announced Thursday, covers Sinclair’s 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSN) brands, the Tennis Channel, Marquee Sports Network, the YES Network, as well as local broadcast stations.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

An earlier agreement between the two was set to expire on February 28, but Charter and Sinclair reached a one-month extension on negotiations – for what some see as a make-or-break deal for Sinclair’s live sports holdings.

According to Bloomberg Intelligence, Sinclair had over $1 billion in distribution revenue on the line that hinged on renewing the contract with Charter.

Sinclair paid $9.6 billion for 21 RSNs in a deal that closed August 2019. However, since then, the RSN business has taken hits, including being dropped from YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV in 2020 – two distribution agreements which together Sinclair had said represented approximately 10% of the local sports gross distribution revenue for the month of September that year.

When Sinclair finally renewed a carriage agreement with Dish Network in November 2021 for broadcast TV channels, it notably excluded the Bally Sports RSNs.

The deal with Charter, which is the second largest U.S. TV provider by subscribers and sells TV under its Spectrum brand, is a big win for Sinclair. While the cable operator lost 71,000 residential video subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2021 it ended the year with 15.83 million video customers overall.  

Sinclair also has plans to launch a Bally Sports direct-to-consumer streaming app, including live games from five MLB teams, that’s expected to arrive this summer. To boost its sports DTC play, Sinclair also scored digital live streaming rights in local territories in deals with the NBA and NHL.