The high price of television sports rights is at the center of a high-stakes clash between Comcast and the YES channel, which airs New York Yankees games. The Wall Street Journal reports that YES has been blacked out since November on Comcast systems as the cable giant battles YES parent company 21st Century Fox. (Note that WSJ has a pay wall and may charge readers to see the story.)
“The fight is the latest and most high-profile example of how pay-TV providers are digging in their heels over rising sports-TV costs,” WSJ reports. “The standoffs, which have hit cities including Los Angeles and Houston, are testing the limits of the sports-rights boom of recent decades and are threatening a money stream that has powered industry profits, filled the coffers of teams and financed huge salaries for star players.”
Some observers have gone so far as to say TV sports is in “crisis mode,” with current business dynamics challenging the long-held believe that fans will pay whatever they have to pay to watch their teams on TV.
“More recently … some big pay-TV distributors are beginning to push back aggressively in fee negotiations, concerned viewers are getting fed up with sports costs and could ‘cut the cord’ in greater numbers. They are also making a bet that consumers don’t care as much as teams and networks think,” WSJ reports, noting that sports channels now account for about 35% of a typical cable bill.