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Raise your hand if you’re scrambling to find a way to watch the Coyotes on television this season. You’re not alone. A lot of fans have reached out to me, frustrated that their provider/carrier/streaming service no longer carries Fox Sports Arizona, the rights holder to Coyotes games.
Maybe you cut the cable cord like tens of millions of Americans are doing. Maybe you were like me and listened to your kids, who were telling you that streaming was the wave of the future. After a long and recently tempestuous relationship with DirecTV, we broke up and I signed up for YouTube TV and Hulu in August. I was pleased with the switch.
Then YouTube TV dropped 19 Fox regional sports networks owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group beginning on Oct. 1. Then Hulu dropped Fox Sports-branded and other regional sports networks from its live-TV packages effective Oct. 23. Then I realized, I had no way of watching the Coyotes.
I attend home games for coverage, and in most seasons I attend road games, but the pandemic has changed all of that for another season, and it has also limited how many of you can watch the games live at Gila River Arena to a maximum of 3,450 to start this season. Television coverage is more important than ever, and yet there is no arguing that is has become harder to watch Coyotes games on TV.
I wonder how the Coyotes feel about this privately. They are trying to grow the sport of hockey and their fan base in Arizona. More viewing options is clearly a vehicle to achieving those aims, but publicly, the Coyotes are standing by their partner, via a prepared statement.
“FOX Sports Arizona is a great partner that provides our fans with outstanding Coyotes coverage. This is a matter between the Sinclair RSNs and their distribution partners, but FOX Sports Arizona continues to be widely available across the region on major distribution platforms, including AT&T TV, AT&T U-verse, COX, DirecTV, Centurylink and more.”
It’s important to note that this is not the Coyotes’ fault. They operate in a market without real options, and they correctly noted that they have no place in a negotiation between Sinclair and various carriers.
Hard-line negotiations for sports broadcasts are nothing new. Just ask Arizona State fans how they feel about DirecTV’s ongoing battle with the Pac-12 Networks. But let’s be frank here, Sinclair is taking this to another level. Last year, Dish Network dropped the Fox RSNs from satellite and Sling TV lineups, while fubo TV cut them in January.
I requested a phone interview and further information from Sinclair. All I got was a prepared statement from their PR department.
“Sinclair is always open to negotiations as we are eager to deliver the best in sports programming to fans everywhere. Unfortunately, certain carriers have to-date been unwilling to enter into agreements consistent with other distribution deals that represent reasonable value for this content. We urge viewers to call their provider to let them know they want to see these Sinclair channels offered once again."
Calling providers is always an option for viewers. They are not blameless in this impasse, but another option is calling Sinclair to ask why it has failed in negotiations with so many carriers.
I don’t know how many households or viewers AT&T, DirecTV, Cox Cable and the like service in Arizona. I was told that they will not release those figures. What I do know is that the cable and satellite viewership is dropping annually. More people are choosing streaming services.
There are still options if you want FSAZ. Fans can visit www.getmyhometeams.com to explore those options. This link will also provide you with a statewide list of providers, and that includes a handful of options in the Phoenix metro area.
Fox Sports Arizona is available for DirecTV CHOICE+ packages in select zip codes. Cox and CenturyLink also carry it. If fans want to find another streaming option, FSAZ encourages them to consider AT&T, which is widely available to Coyotes and Suns fans across the marketplace.
AT&T TV’s Choice package includes FSAZ, and you can search local channels with your zip code here. It has no annual contract required for new customers and can be streamed across all customers’ devices. AT&T TV NOW’s Max package also includes FSAZ, and the price point is around $80 a month. Per an AT&T spokesperson, AT&T TV selects your regional sports network based on your billing zip code. So if you live in Phoenix and use your Phoenix zip for billing, if you travel to another city on vacation or work, you’ll still be able to watch Coyotes games.
The spokesperson said that as of Tuesday, the service had simplified video for customers by merging AT&T TV and AT&T TV NOW. The Entertainment package on AT&T TV has 20 more channels than the old entry-level package on AT&T TV NOW. All AT&T TV monthly contract packages come with 20 hours of cloud DVR storage included. For $10 per month, customers can upgrade to 500 hours of storage so they can record any Coyotes games they miss. Existing AT&T TV NOW customers can continue to use the service and will not experience any disruptions as part of this change.
All of that sounds great, but it doesn’t change the reality that Sinclair is forcing Coyotes fans (and fans in other cities) into a smaller box with fewer choices. Some Coyotes fans aren’t happy about it.
“I am trying to figure out how I can see games without subscribing to another service,” one fan wrote me. “I already have YouTube, Disney+ and Netflix. I don't see why I should be considering another paid service.”
It’s a fair question.
Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter: @CraigSMorgan