Like many San Diegans, Will Holder’s mind keeps drifting back to one topic this week.
“Oh man, Padres occupy like 80% of my brain right now,” Holder explained.
He grew up in San Diego pulling for the Padres. In many ways that's gotten a whole lot easier in the last year. He loves his hometown club, from their star-studded roster to their stylish brown uniforms.
“I can't think of a bad thing about the organization right now,” Holder said. “Except we can't watch them.”
That's the problem facing a number of fans like Holder. He dropped cable a few years ago, and last March signed up for YouTube TV -- a subscription he used almost exclusively to watch the Padres.
He got to enjoy their breakthrough 2020 season, but in recent weeks realized that there was no Padres coverage to be found.
That's because last fall YouTube, like Hulu, stopped carrying the Fox Sports Regional Networks (now renamed Bally Sports), owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. YouTube and Hulu joined the likes of Dish, Sling and FuboTV who no longer have an agreement in place with Sinclair's fleet of regional sports networks.
Those decisions often come down to money.
In 2012, the Padres signed a 20-year rights deal with Fox Sports worth over $1 billion. Broadcast groups like Sinclair recoup that money by striking deals with TV providers. But more and more people are canceling cable subscriptions in favor of less expensive streaming services. One way for YouTube TV and Hulu to avoid rate hikes is by limiting the number of regional sports networks they offer.
While YouTube and Hulu do carry some regional networks in other markets, they do not carry those owned by Sinclair.
The Padres are well aware of the dilemma. CEO Erik Greupner said they've made clear to Sinclair their desire to be available to fans in San Diego on as many platforms as possible.
“That's always our desire,” Greupner said earlier this month. “But they pay good value for the rights and they have a business that they run. They've got to work those out.”
It's an area of focus for Sinclair, but as it stands there are only three options for fans who want to watch Fox Sports San Diego: Cox Cable, DirecTV and AT&T TV.
“A fan will be able to access it in San Diego, it may just not be on the service that they already have in place,” Greupner added.
There is nothing to suggest that a resolution between Sinclair and the streaming platforms is on the horizon. So, Holder came up with another way to make sure he can watch the Padres -- by purchasing a season ticket plan.
He isn't going to miss out on seeing his team.
“Especially during this year of all years, the most highly anticipated Padres season ever,” Holder said. “It just seems kind of unfair to the people.”
A new option could be available to fans this time next year. Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley has said that they expect to have an app available in 2022 that will allow viewers to access their sports networks without a separate subscription.
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