December 6, 2022

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Charter’s Still a Fan of the RSN Model. That’s Great News for Sinclair.

The nation’s second-largest cable operator has signed a new distribution deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group that includes carriage of the 19 Bally Sports RSNs.

Charter Communications, which as of the end of 2021 served up the cable bundle to 15.8 million U.S. households, came to an agreement with Sinclair earlier today. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the multi-year renewal includes Sinclair’s broadcast stations as well as the regional sports networks. In addition to the wholly-owned local sports channels, the new deal includes continued carriage for YES Network and Marquee Sports Network, as well as Tennis Channel.

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Sinclair holds a 20% stake in YES through its Diamond Sports subsidiary. The media company shares control of the two-year-old Marquee with the Chicago Cubs.

That Charter and Sinclair would come to terms was never in doubt, as the two sides have worked diligently to hash out an extension without the usual show of customer blackouts and finger-pointing. The companies recently agreed to a temporary arrangement that would keep beaming Sinclair’s signals into Charter’s 15.8 million homes even after their original contract had lapsed.

While Sinclair has been shut out of a good chunk of the satellite-TV game, cable operators have been receptive to the company and its RSNs. (The cordial relations have been upheld despite Sinclair/Diamond Sports’ plans to launch an over-the-top streaming service, which raises fears that it’s likely to accelerate the already grim cord-cutting trends.) In July 2020, Sinclair inked what was arguably its most crucial carriage renewal, re-upping with Comcast and its 18.2 million cable subs.

Today’s renewal came as little surprise to anyone who’s tracked Charter’s affiliate agreements. Charter is renowned as the most “RSN-friendly” operator in the business; according to a recent Kagan report, the cable company grants its subscribers access to 41 of the 47 RSNs within its footprint, good for an 87% hit rate.

A similar dynamic holds sway at DirecTV, which as it happens is in line to be Sinclair’s next major renewal at the end of 2023. Per Kagan, the satellite giant carries 41 of the 49 regional sports networks that are available across its national footprint.

DISH Network chairman Charlie Ergen soured on the pricey RSN model a long time ago, and the Sinclair RSNs haven’t aired in the satellite-TV provider’s 8.2 million homes since July 2019. In fact, the Fox-branded RSNs went dark in DISH homes a month before Sinclair took delivery of its $9.6 billion investment.

DISH re-upped with the Sinclair broadcast stations in 2021.

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