Here we go again.
Proving once again that cord-cutting can be just as volatile as cable, it appears YouTube TV will be losing support for Fox regional sports networks beginning next month—for real this time. YouTube TV announced on its Twitter support page Tuesday that while the company had negotiated a deal earlier this year with the distributor of those networks, Sinclair Broadcast Group, to continue carrying them through the end of the MLB, NBA, and NHL seasons, that agreement is now expiring.
Beginning next month, YouTube TV users will no longer have access to those channels or any of the DVR content that’s linked to their programming, the company said.
“We’ve been working to reach a more permanent solution since then, but, unfortunately now the seasons are over and that extension is expiring,” a spokesperson for YouTube TV told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “Starting October 1, 2020, users will no longer be able to watch live, on demand, or recorded content from these networks. We don’t take this decision lightly, and will continue to do our best to make YouTube TV a best-in-class experience.”
Because public games of chicken over licensing agreements aren’t totally uncommon, it’s entirely possible a final-hour deal could be reached that would reverse the decision and keep Fox RSNs on the platform. As of Wednesday, it appeared that discussions were ongoing.
“While we are disappointed that YouTube will discontinue carriage of the RSNs, we remain in discussions in an effort to find a mutually acceptable path to returning the RSNs to Youtube TV,” Barry Faber, Sinclair’s president of distribution and network relations, said in a statement. “We intend to keep the public informed as to the progress of these discussions so that YouTube TV subscribers can make informed decisions regarding how to view the extremely popular programming carried on these RSNs.”
But the reality is streaming services lose content all the damn time. The problem is that when it’s sports, and particularly for regional coverage, options are often limited to just a handful of services that may or may not carry support for all the other stuff you want to watch—or may charge for perks like DVR that come standard on some services while others charge premiums.
This was for many viewers the whole reason we started cutting the cord to begin with. Cable networks are notorious for gouging customers for features that should be included in their expected (and advertised) cable costs but generally cost extra as well as for making the process of exiting a cable agreement or asking for a refund a hellish experience.
But streaming shenanigans are no better as of late. For regional sports viewers especially. The entire point of signing up for a streaming service is to avoid the headaches of what is and isn’t covered and what is and isn’t hidden behind fees or weird marketing. Now YouTube TV is leaving consumers having to either hop from one service to another or run, head-spinning, back into the cruel clutches of Big Cable. That’s to say nothing of the rising costs of subscriptions in general. YouTube TV cost $35 per month when it launched just a few years ago. Today, it costs $65 per month.
Cord-cutting has its benefits, to be sure. But more and more, the problems that arise in licensing agreements and considerable price hikes are looking too much like the problems that led viewers to hightail it from cable programming to begin with.