While customers were no doubt disappointed to learn that fuboTV would no longer carry local CBS stations in 160 major markets at the end of January, the company has largely been spared significant ramifications. Of course, it’s only been a month since this happened, so it’s possible the company will see a bigger effect in the coming months, but for now, company executives don’t seem particularly concerned.
“Under no circumstances is this programming necessary for us given the retention levels we’ve seen,” chief executive David Gandler said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call from local CBS stations. “It’s certainly something we’d love to give back to them… (but we’re) in a holding pattern, similar to how you wait to see how this plays out.”
The live TV streaming service dropped local CBS affiliates after Paramount Global was unable to reach an agreement with many of its local CBS affiliates to continue carrying on fuboTV. Affiliates were not required to abide by the agreement, and many chose not to accept it, effectively ensuring their removal from the service, even though the Eye Network and the live streamer had essentially agreed to a continuous carriage agreement.
The largest affiliated companies, including EW Scripps, Hearst, Nexstar, Sinclair and TEGNA, are among those that have opted out of the agreement. Nearly 70% of the top 50 DMAs in the country, including Washington, DC, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Seattle, Tampa, Orlando, Cleveland, and St. Louis, have been affected.
Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO Chris Ripley said last week that he believes the Fubo dispute could be resolved in the coming months. That’s good news for Fubo users who miss their local CBS streams, but Ripley has little control over the choice. The network does not allow affiliates to actively sign up with service providers like fuboTV, according to the CEO. This type of negotiation is done by the networks, which then present the agreement to the affiliates for their approval or disapproval. In this specific case, a significant portion of CBS affiliates believed the deal was below what they could accept. Gandler said Fubo has done its part to negotiate the carrier contract with the network, but it is up to CBS to secure deals with local broadcasters.
One of the reasons the Fubo CEO believes the outage hasn’t affected the streamer much is that they still have access to a national CBS feed and there are numerous free and ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms available dedicated specifically to it. to locals. news.
Gandler said that when it comes to paying for content, the streamer is willing to, as it has proven over time, but only if it adds value to Fubo’s customers. Without much pushback from customers over the loss of local channels and a growing customer base approaching 1.5 million, the company feels it could be in an even better bargaining position than it anticipated.
“We are happy to pay a premium to bring content that we believe is valuable to packages, such as regional sports networks,” Gandler said. “We may once again have even more leverage than we had initially anticipated, particularly as we are growing in double digits year-over-year. So for now, we’re going to let this play out for a little bit longer. And then obviously we’ll reach out and see if there’s anything we can do to help.”
It seems that both CBS and fuboTV would like to resolve this dispute sooner or later, but the decision essentially comes down to the affiliates. But, if the owners of those stations try to play hardball with the sports-focused broadcaster, they could end up with a worse deal than they bargained for.