FARGO — Just as the Minnesota Twins make a stretch run for the Major League Baseball playoffs or possibly the World Series, pay-TV operators Dish Network and Sling failed to reach an agreement with Fox Sports Regional Networks and cut off the channel from their services.
The Fox network's Upper Midwest station — Fox Sports North — carries Minnesota sporting events like the Minnesota Wild hockey team, the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team and some Minnesota Lynx WNBA games, as well as special programming on Minnesota Vikings football and other regional events. The station was cut off on Friday, July 26.
The same scenario is being carried out on the company's other 20 regional sports networks nationwide as baseball fans lost their game coverage from the Rangers in Texas to the Tigers in Michigan.
In a statement, the sports network said that they were "disappointed that, despite repeated efforts, DISH and Sling refused to engage in any substantive discussions to reach a new agreement."
The network said they offered prices in negotiations that "are in line with what others have agreed (and continue to agree) to."
On its website and through a phone number, FSN is encouraging viewers to subscribe to another TV service.
FSN considers its coverage area as Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and South Dakota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa.
FSN didn't return messages left at their offices.
Negotiations, however, are apparently continuing.
Sling TV Group President Warren Schlichting, who oversees the acquisition and renewal of content on Sling and Dish, said in a video statement on Tuesday, July 30, that the sports network "owner is making unreasonable demands for continued carriage of their stations."
Schlichting said they "unfortunately haven't been able to reach a fair deal."
"The regional sports networks are still making unreasonable demands and are asking for an outrageous rate increase to continue to carry their programming," he said.
However, Schlichting said, the satellite and internet TV operators are still "working hard and fighting" to reach an agreement.
In a followup statement on Thursday, Aug. 1, Dish and Sling said they offered the sports networks a short-term extension "in an effort to quickly negotiate a fair, long-term deal for our customers."
The sports network instead offered an extension that would put the expiration date up against the 2020 Major League Baseball Opening Day, according to the statement.
"They want to use baseball fans as negotiation leverage, while continuing to get paid in the meantime for sports with lower viewership. Coming to a fair deal is in the interest of customers, not a nine-month extension that simply puts them in the middle again," according to the statement.
The Walt Disney Company currently owns the sports networks, but a deal is expected to close soon with Sinclair Broadcasting Co. purchasing the stations for $10.6 billion. Disney was forced by the U.S. Department of Justice to give up the sports networks after the purchase of 21st Century Fox to avoid an antitrust problem.