The Dec. 31 expiration of Comcast’s Fox News Channel pact gave 21st Century Fox the leverage to open the door for carriage of the YES sports cabler as well as extending agreements for 12 other Fox-owned regional cable networks. Sports networks have become a flashpoint of tension between programmers and distributors as they are routinely the priciest channels per subscriber for MVPDs, often with limited appeal among a broad subscriber base.
The YES Network is the local TV home of New York Yankee games as well as the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. The channel was dropped in November 2015 on Comcast systems serving about 1 million subscribers in outlying areas of New York City. YES had been on Comcast’s New York City-area systems since the channel’s launch in 2002. But a few months after Comcast dropped its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, which would have made Comcast the dominant cable provider in market, Comcast ended its carriage of YES, saying it wasn’t generating enough viewership to justify the high price tag.
“We always said that we would continue to evaluate whether there was a way to bring back the YES Network under terms that are consistent with our commitment to providing the best programming at the best possible price,” Comcast said in a statement. “Our year-end discussions with Fox gave us a chance to revisit this, and we were able to reach an overall agreement for Fox News Channel, 12 Fox RSNs, and YES Network that makes sense for both of us – and most importantly, our customers.”
At the same time, Fox News is known to be pushing for big rate increases in its latest round of distribution agreements. The channel is coming off the most-watched year in its 20-year history, fueled by the surge of interest in the presidential election. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the deal, the new Comcast deal raises Fox News’ per subscriber fee to $1.50 per subscriber per month, with annual increases to come over the pact believed to run about four years.