AT&T Sports Networks on Tuesday released its list of deals done with distributors to carry ROOT Sports Northwest programming this coming NHL and NBA season, and it is notable for its omissions.
Streaming advocates will be disappointed to see that neither YouTube TV nor Hulu has signed up to carry the regional sports network (RSN) and the Kraken and Portland Trail Blazers games it is set to broadcast. But even more surprising, at least for now, is that Direct TV and its DirectTV Stream service also have yet to sign on for the additional Kraken and Trail Blazers programming.
“We are still in discussions with DirecTV and hope they will add the Kraken and Trail Blazers to their platforms,” AT&T Sports Networks President Patrick Crumb said in an interview after Tuesday’s announcement.
What that means for thousands of local DirecTV subscribers, if no deal is reached in short order, is that anyone tuning in to Thursday’s first scheduled ROOT Sports broadcast of the Kraken — for a game in Nashville against the Predators — will instead see alternate programming. The development is somewhat bizarre considering DirecTV and its streaming service is now controlled by TPG Capital, an equity company co-founded by Kraken majority owner David Bonderman.
TPG closed a deal in August to form a new entity that owns and operates DirecTV and its streaming service, which both had previously been under AT&T control. AT&T Sports Networks has a minority stake in Mariners-owned ROOT Sports and manages the RSN on the baseball team’s behalf.
Crumb had no further comment on the DirecTV situation, other than to say he hopes a deal can be reached in time for the debut Kraken broadcast.
On YouTube and Hulu bypassing an offer to pick up ROOT Sports, he was less optimistic.
“Unfortunately, notwithstanding the fans’ desire to see Kraken and Trail Blazers games, both are declining to carry the programming,” he said. “I don’t necessarily see that changing anytime soon.”
The deals that were struck include companies that encompass about 80% of existing ROOT Sports viewers. Of the 20% of viewers not included in the deals, the majority subscribe to DirecTV.
Among the bigger carriers that did pick up the enhanced ROOT Sports programming — which includes the Kraken and Trail Blazers: Comcast, Charter, Spectrum and Alaska-based GCI.
ROOT Sports also announced a streaming deal last month with fuboTV that is to go live this week.
“We are extremely proud to have ROOT Sports as our local television rights holder as we begin our inaugural season,” Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said in a release. “We know the ROOT team has been working hard, and it is great to have these distribution deals finalized. There is a great deal of excitement for Kraken hockey throughout our broadcast territory, and it will only continue to grow.”
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