Fox’s Yes network aims to turn up the pressure in its carriage standoff with Comcast by launching a media blitz to encourage New York City-area viewers to switch providers as the start of baseball season approaches.
Yes’ advertising efforts are expected to be unveiled tomorrow with full-page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers, as well as radio and TV spots, outdoor placements and an aggressive social media strategy. The campaign is a bold tactic that underscores the dollars at stake for regional sports networks, which are increasingly a flash point for tensions among programmers and distributors.
Tracy Dolgin, CEO of Yes, said the two sides have had no substantive conversations since Comcast surprised Fox by dropping the channel in late November. He said Yes felt it had no choice but to spread the word to viewers after months of no movement with Comcast.
“They dropped us,” he told Variety. “We didn’t drop them. We decided we needed to inform viewers about their alternatives before they miss Opening Day.”
Yes is New York’s hometown provider of New York Yankees games as well as the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. It is considered the most successful RSN in the country and one of the priciest cable channels for distributors in the industry at an estimated $5 monthly subscriber fee.
Comcast had carried Yes in about 900,000-1 million homes on the edges of the New York City DMA, mostly in New Jersey, Scranton, Pa., and Connecticut. Comcast had reached an agreement in principle on a new carriage deal for Yes in early 2015 because at the time it expected to become New York City’s largest cable provider, following its acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
But when Comcast’s merger with TW Cable was scuttled last April, Comcast took a hard look at the deal and viewership of Yes, particularly during the Yankees’ off season, and decided the channel wasn’t worth the cost. There was other wrangling on deal points that had been the source of much back-and-forth between the Yes and Comcast camps. But fundamentally, Comcast asserted: “the price/value proposition for the YES network did not justify the price that Fox was asking for the network.”
Dolgin notes that Comcast itself owns eight RSNs including the high-priced CSN channel in Chicago that is home to the city’s NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball teams.
Yes’ newspaper ad features a picture of Yankees pitcher Dellin Petances on the mound and urges viewers to “Drop Comcast Today” and includes a toll-free number for viewers to call for more information. AT&T’s DirecTV could be a beneficiary of the push but has no financial involvement in the effort, Dolgin said.
Fox acquired 49% of Yes in 2012 for $584 million and raised its stake to 80% in January 2014.