YouTube TV will pull Sinclair's Fox Sports stations on Feb. 29

As baseball season and NBA and NHL playoff races loom, many YouTube TV sports fans may lose access to watching their favorite teams.

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Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
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A dispute with Sinclair will soon see a number of sports channels disappear from YouTube TV. 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Update, March 2: The two companies have agreed to temporarily keep Sinclair's channels on YouTube TV while they negotiate. The original story, published Feb. 27, follows below.

A broadcast dispute between YouTube TV and the Sinclair Broadcast Group could leave sports fans around the country in the dark on Saturday. In a series of tweets Thursday afternoon, YouTube TV confirmed that on Feb. 29 it will no longer be offering Sinclair's regional Fox Sports networks, Marquee and YES Network on its platform.

"We purchase rights from Sinclair to distribute content to you. Despite our best efforts, we've been unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair," YouTube wrote on Twitter. "As a result, we will no longer offer Fox Regional Sports Networks, including YES Network, beginning Feb. 29."

"We do not take this decision lightly," the company continued. "This is a reflection of the rising cost of sports content," with YouTube TV's account noting that other TV providers have similarly lost access to Sinclair in recent months. 

Dish Network previously dropped Sinclair's channels on its satellite service and Sling TV streaming service in July over a similar dispute, while FuboTV has been without the sports channels at the start of the year

Sinclair completed its purchase of 21 Fox Sports regional networks and the New York Yankees' YES Network in August after they were spun off from Disney's takeover of a number of Fox assets last March. The company also owns the Marquee Sports Network, which broadcasts Chicago Cubs games. 

Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 are owned by Fox Media, the same group that owns the Fox broadcast channel, Fox News and Fox Business. It is not affected by the fight between Sinclair and YouTube TV.  

Read more: Best live TV streaming services for cord-cutters in 2020

Broadcasting professional and college sports around the country, Sinclair's Fox Sports channels can be must-have channels for sports fans in many of the areas they operate. 

The timing of the dispute should also hit fans particularly hard, with college conference basketball tournaments set to begin over the next few weeks, the race to the playoffs occurring in the NHL and NBA , and Opening Day for Major League Baseball's regular season less than a month away. 

Some of its network sites, such as the YES Network, are recommending fans switch to Hulu with Live TV or AT&T TV Now if they want to continue to watch their teams. The YES site also includes links and information for signing up with local cable providers or DirecTV. 

Read more: YouTube TV dropped Fox sports channels and YES Network. Hulu to the rescue

"We offered YouTube TV the best terms under which their competitors carry our Regional Sports Networks.  Unfortunately, they alone decided to drop these channels citing 'rising costs' despite our offer to actually lower the fees they pay us," Sinclair spokesman Ronn Torossian said in a statement.  

"We also offered to continue negotiating under a short-term extension so that their subscribers could continue to watch their favorite hometown teams.  They've not yet responded to this offer. Given the ease with which YouTube TV subscribers can drop the service and switch providers, we are surprised that they've chosen this course."

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