STEWARTVILLE, Minn. -- Sitting on the couch alongside their sons and watching Minnesota sports on TV has been a generational tradition for the Pagel family.
It’s a way of life for 52-year-old Stewartville resident Richard Pagel, who adores the Minnesota Vikings, Twins and Wild.
“To me, to sit down and just watch a Twins game on an afternoon is a stress reliever,” Pagel said. “I just want to watch the game.”
Being able to do that for Pagel, and many Minnesota sports fans, has become harder and harder over the past few months because streaming services such as Hulu and YouTube TV dropped Fox Sports North and other regional sports networks due to contractual disputes.
That leaves Minnesota sports fans with their only options being cable providers, DirecTV and AT&T, more expensive avenues in today’s streaming age. The basic cable packages with providers such as Dish and DirecTV also do not come with Fox Sports North, requiring consumers to pay an extra fee for the channel.
“Like with these extended sports packages with Dish, that’s not me. I’m not going to watch other teams -- I just want to watch the Minnesota teams,” Pagel said.
That’s why many fans originally went to streaming platforms to get their sports fix. Apple, Hulu Live and YouTube TV, along with Sling TV and Fubo, offered FSN and Pagel subscribed to most of them.
@TeamYouTube please get fox sports north back or I’m going to cancel y’all are ridiculous Hulu spends lots of money to run commercials with athletes promoting live sports on their platform. They then proceed to eliminate Fox Sports North from their platform AND raise prices. So now we pays more for less.#Hulu I only have cable for baseball. And I can’t even get it on the basic package I gotta go the next step up and have over 100 channels just for Fox Sports North. I may actually look into their streaming service to see if they will offer Fox Sports North. @YouTubeTV quietly took it away during the pandemic because they couldn’t get a deal done. No more @twins games = no more YouTube TV for me.
@TeamYouTube please get fox sports north back or I’m going to cancel y’all are ridiculous— Ari Gold (@TyTyBuckets) February 15, 2021
Hulu spends lots of money to run commercials with athletes promoting live sports on their platform. They then proceed to eliminate Fox Sports North from their platform AND raise prices. So now we pays more for less.#Hulu— tim neumann (@tneumann21) February 14, 2021
I only have cable for baseball. And I can’t even get it on the basic package I gotta go the next step up and have over 100 channels just for Fox Sports North.— MLB Commissioner Curve Turtle Shayla 🇺🇸 (@Shaylarz) February 10, 2021
I may actually look into their streaming service to see if they will offer Fox Sports North. @YouTubeTV quietly took it away during the pandemic because they couldn’t get a deal done. No more @twins games = no more YouTube TV for me.— Kj in MN (@buffalo_alice) February 8, 2021
But the streaming services gradually started dropping the regional sports networks, with YouTube TV announcing in September it would no longer provide the channel and Hulu following suit in October. AT&T is the last remaining streaming service that provides Fox Sports North and has increased its prices for packages since.
“Sinclair (Broadcast Group and owner of the Fox Sports Network) remains committed to reaching a fair agreement with both Hulu and YouTube TV to carry the FOX (regional sports networks),” Sinclair said in a statement on Jan. 18. “At no time have we demanded exorbitant fees for these channels. Instead, we have consistently offered both pay TV providers extremely fair deals in line with what hundreds of other TV services have agreed to and continue to agree to.”
“However, despite high profile ad campaigns and website claims touting their live sports content, we have yet to see that same commitment from either provider to put consumers first. Unfortunately, at this point we have no choice but to conclude that neither Disney (which owns Hulu) nor Google (which owns YouTube) is willing to engage in good faith discussions or return the (regional sports networks) to their platforms.”
Many Vikings’ fans were still able to get access to games throughout the season with them either being broadcasted on CBS or FOX, but with football season over, the most consistent way to watch Minnesota professional sports is through FSN.
Sinclair said on Nov. 18 that it was going to be going through with a partnership with Bally’s Corp., a gaming and betting company. As part of this partnership, Sinclair president and CEO Chris Ripley said regional sports networks would be individually available without a bundle and rebranded using Bally’s name.
“We have a pretty aggressive plan,” Ripley said on a conference call on Nov. 19. “It will happen next year.”
But while Twins’ fans such as Pagel hope this plan comes into fruition to reclaim a small part of their life, Ripley indicated during the call not to expect the option to become available by the start of baseball season.
“It sucks and now football is done and it’s time for baseball and I’m getting excited,” Pagel said. “I told my wife the other day, what if I don’t get to see any games?”