Braves telecasts missing from some carriers

A Fox Sports television camera captures a game between the Braves and the  Nationals in Washington. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

A Fox Sports television camera captures a game between the Braves and the Nationals in Washington. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

As Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast launch another season of Braves telecasts, starting with an exhibition game Friday, some fans will find the games unavailable via their TV providers.

Streaming services YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV dropped 21 Fox-branded regional sports networks, including the two based in Atlanta, from their lineups in October because of a contract dispute and haven’t resumed carrying them.

Fox Sports South and Southeast, which also televise Hawks, Dream and Atlanta United games, remain off satellite TV provider Dish Network, which dropped them in 2019 in a carriage dispute, and several other streaming services as well.

“I’m very frustrated by the whole situation,” said Atlanta resident and long-time Braves fan Morgan Shallcross, who dropped his cable company last year and switched to YouTube TV. He has enjoyed watching the Braves on television since the 1970s but, as things stand now, said he might just listen to them on radio this year.

The NBA season hasn’t produced a deal between the regional sports networks and the streaming companies, and as baseball season approaches, the standoff continues about how much YouTube TV and Hulu should pay Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of the Fox RSNs, to air the networks.

Asked about the disputes and the chances of resolution by the start of the MLB season, Sinclair said it “remains committed to reaching a fair agreement with both Hulu and YouTube TV,” but offered no indication of progress toward a deal.

“At no time have we demanded exorbitant fees for these channels,” Sinclair said in a statement. “Instead, we have consistently offered both pay TV providers extremely fair deals in line with what hundreds of other TV services have agreed to and continue to agree to.

“However, despite high profile ad campaigns and website claims touting their live sports content, we have yet to see that same commitment from either provider to put consumers first. Unfortunately, at this point we have no choice but to conclude that neither Disney (which owns Hulu) nor Google (which owns YouTube) is willing to engage in good faith discussions or return the RSNs to their platforms.”

In messages to customers about dropping the regional networks, both YouTube TV and Hulu cited an inability to reach a deal with Sinclair. YouTube TV told subscribers the decision to drop the channels “was a difficult decision made after months of negotiations,” adding: “We hope that we can bring Fox RSNs back in the future.”

Braves, Hawks, Dream and Atlanta United fans who subscribe to carriers that have dropped Fox Sports South/Southeast are left to decide whether to change TV providers or wait out the disputes in hopes the networks will return to their current providers’ lineups or forgo watching their teams’ telecasts. YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV have more than 3 million subscribers each; the companies haven’t disclosed how many are in the Atlanta TV market.

Fox Sports South and Southeast remain available through cable companies, including Comcast’s Xfinity, as well as on satellite provider DirecTV and some plans offered by streaming service AT&T TV. They are unavailable on streaming services Sling TV and FuboTV, both of which dropped them more than a year ago.

As for the MLB.TV streaming subscription service, live regular-season games are blacked out in teams’ home markets (although some spring training games are available).

Shallcross is considering his options as Braves season approaches. “It has been destination TV for me,” he said of Braves telecasts. He said he won’t return to his previous cable provider, Xfinity, but might consider AT&T TV.

He thinks all parties are making a mistake not to have local teams’ games available on YouTube TV and Hulu.

“Sports already has its fan base aging,” said Shallcross, who is retired. “Not making yourself available to the next generation on the way they like to consume information and entertainment seems really shortsighted.”

Shallcross said he has tried calling and emailing Fox Sports South, the Braves, YouTube and Hulu, but has received little in the way of response. “I came to the conclusion that probably they’re not going to get it worked out,” he said, “and I’ll make my plans for this spring or listen to it on the radio.”

Fox Sports South and Southeast will televise six Braves exhibition games, starting with Friday’s 1 p.m. game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers on FSSE. Other spring training telecasts are March 19 vs. the Twins (FSSO), March 20 vs. the Red Sox (FSSO), March 22 at the Twins (FSSE), March 26 at the Twins (FSSO) and March 28 at the Rays (FSSO). (The telecasts on Friday and March 22 will have the Twins broadcasters calling the action. Braves broadcasters Chip Caray and Jeff Francoeur will call the other four.)

The Braves’ regular-season opener is April 1 in Philadelphia.

The Fox-branded regional sports networks across the country have local TV rights to 14 MLB teams, 17 NBA teams and 13 NHL teams. The networks were acquired by Sinclair from Disney, which had acquired them from 21st Century Fox.

Sinclair has a naming-rights deal with casinos operator Bally’s Corporation to rebrand the networks. Fox Sports South will become Bally Sports South, and Fox Sports Southeast will become Bally Sports Southeast. The networks are expected to begin using the new names in the coming weeks.