Hi, how ya doin, there? If you’re new to Cosas Totum, you’ll need to know a couple quick things. So far all of us work and live in the greater Dallas area, we all love the local teams, and Bally Sports Southwest (formerly Fox Sports Southwest) carries our regional coverage for the Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Dallas Mavericks. Oh yeah. You’ll also need to know that Bally Sports is awful.
We’ve talked about this a lot here at Cosas Totum. I wouldn’t use the phrase “ad nauseum” just yet, but we’re getting there. Here is the long and short of my issue with Bally Sports. Currently, Bally Sports (which in addition to the Dallas teams also provides coverage for the other NBA and MLB teams in Texas as well as a whole slew of other teams throughout the country) is only available through the AT&T/DirecTV, Suddenlink, and Spectrum, and even that is regional.
That means that if you have Dish Network, some other cable provider, or have cut out cable altogether and have gone with a streaming service like YouTube TV, Hulu Live, or Sling TV, you’re SOL when it comes to watching the Rangers, Stars, or Mavericks. I happen to love watching baseball, so all three hit me pretty hard, though the Rangers were terrible this season so maybe not being able to watch them just saved me from a lot of frustration. The point is for the hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of us who have cut cable because of astronomical costs and very little service, it’s a real pain. So who is to blame here?
Is it Just Bally Sports?
No. As much as I want to pin all of this on Bally Sports, it’s not just them. But here’s why it’s most fun to blame them: they are petty.
This is from the Bally Sports website. Just read that. It reads like a campaign ad. “Hulu and YouTube claim to care about sports fans” is a really passive aggressive way to begin a sentence. It’s sophomoric and beneath a multibillion-dollar company like Sinclair, which owns Bally Sports. Seriously, can’t you just see a bunch of Bally Sports people working on this FAQ section right after watching this:
But I digress. Bally Sports’s pettiness continues with the very next FAQ, which, in another stroke of political gaslighting, asks whether Bally Sports is being greedy. Would you trust Bally Sports to give an objective, balanced response to that question, even if they didn’t literally ask it themselves? I wouldn’t.
And look, this answer might be a good one, but I can’t get over how catty and backhanded the question is. But there is something in here that bugs me, too. YouTube TV (and every other streaming service) carries ESPN. ESPN is the king of sports television in this country. YouTube TV (and most other streaming services) also carries NBC Sports, CBS Sports, the various college conference networks, the NFL Network, the MLB Network, NBA TV, and other specialty sports channels. So why not Bally? Is this YouTube TV overestimating its bargaining power, or is this Bally Sports overestimating its bargaining power? Because it has to be one or the other.
Is it really because YouTube TV and the others don’t see the value in carrying Bally Sports and honestly think they have a better bargaining position than Bally/Sinclair? I get that ESPN has more bargaining power than just about everyone. When you have a full slate of college sports plus Monday Night Football, you’re going to be in a position to dictate some terms. But Bally Sports has many regional teams (upwards of 40 MLB, NHL, and NBA teams have deals with Bally Sports), and therefore should have a little clout, right? One, or more likely, both companies are acting petulant and obstinate on an issue that should be pretty straightforward.
That’s the Rub
That’s the rub, though. Maybe this whole thing is Bally Sports and the streaming services each believing they have more clout than they do. This is nothing more than a corporate-level pissing match and, as usual, the consumers are the only ones who suffer.
And here’s the kicker to add to the rub. Bally Sports is allegedly working on a standalone streaming service that would allow people to pay yet another streaming service fee just to have access to their local teams. What’s more? I’d pay for it. DO YOU HEAR THAT, BALLY? I’LL PAY YOUR STUPID EXTRA FEE TO WATCH MY FAVORITE TEAMS. BUT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST DO SOMETHING TO MAKE THE FANS FEEL LIKE YOU GIVE A DAMN.
That’s all it is. I’m a staunch capitalist so I believe very deeply in free market economics and would never want the government telling Bally/Sinclair or YouTube or any other private entity what they have to offer, especially when it comes to something as arbitrary as television. But this is very upsetting. What it feels like is that Bally, YouTube TV, and hell, even the teams themselves to a certain degree, don’t care about the fans/customers. I think all it would take would be for the Mavericks to threaten to change who their exclusive TV deal is with and then maybe Bally will understand how unpopular they are in the eyes of the fans right now.
The way I see it, there are a few solutions, each more unlikely than the last. The first would be for Bally/Sinclair, YouTube TV, Hulu Live, Fubo, Sling, and all the other cable and streaming providers to quit being petulant toddlers and actually place some importance on customer satisfaction rather than whatever else they’re thinking about during this unnecessary and frustrating pissing match. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think corporations can be pretty petty and really dig their heels in on stupid issues when they want to. With that in mind, while I do think this would be the best solution, I doubt it will happen anytime soon. YouTube TV has a standard response when asked about the rift with Bally, and it’s basically “we don’t know, quit asking.”
The next solution would be for the teams who currently work exclusively with Bally to find someone else to host their games. This would require some coordination with the teams themselves, but I think it would be most effective. I would encourage the Mavericks, Stars, Rangers, Astros, Spurs, Thunder, and other teams in the Bally Sports Southwest region to start shopping around for another carrier ASAP. That would hopefully teach Bally Sports a valuable lesson about how expendable they are in the long run. However, the teams are likely getting a pretty large paycheck out of this, and it will be a difficult sell. Plus, at the end of the day this isn’t really their fight. This is ultimately a temper tantrum between multiple media companies.
A third option that I think everyone should be on board for is having the ability to add Bally Sports to existing streaming service packages for some additional fee. I would gladly pay an extra $20 or so a month if it meant I can watch the Rangers, Mavericks, and Stars. If I logged on to YouTube TV tomorrow and I saw an option to add Bally Sports for an additional $20 a month, I’d take that deal faster than you can say “Luka magic.”
The nuclear option is to somehow coordinate all regional sports fans and convince them to not pay for any regional sports until more services offer them. Of course, the odds of this happening are infinitesimally small and would require coordination across hundreds of thousands of people in an age when people argue over whether a hot dog is a sandwich. It isn’t, by the way. Neither is a burrito or a taco or a gyro or a pita or anything else like that, but that’s a different argument for a different day.
As usual the corporations will die on small hills for principals no one really believes in and the ones who suffer are the fans and customers. It’s shameful that in a time when you can have a Zoom chat with an astronaut we can’t get multibillion-dollar companies like Sinclair and YouTube (via Google) to sit down and make an effort to satisfy their customer bases. Shame on all of them. And the kicker is that as much as I hate to admit it, I’ll probably switch to DirecTV’s streaming service if there’s not agreement reached by the time the Mavericks kick off their season on October 21. I won’t be happy about it, but at some point we as customers have to whet our appetites, and that’s the only way I know how.
Until then, let’s just keep in mind that all of these companies are awful and that it’s only fans who suffer over this nonsense.