Advanced Television

Settlement ends DISH blackout for millions

October 12, 2015

By Chris Forrester

Denver-based Dish Network has once again been at the heart of a bitter carriage dispute. This time it was with Tegna Broadcasting, perhaps better known as the Washington DC-based Gannett portfolio of local stations. The stations were dark over the past weekend, although the two companies struck a multi-year carriage agreement which saw broadcasts resume for Sunday evening.

Tegna is huge and its 38 markets reach some 90 million American homes via 46 TV stations (including some that are managed by Tegna), representing more than a third of all TV households in the US. In particular Tegna is the largest owner of CBS and NBC affiliates, and the fourth-largest owner of ABC stations in the US.

The stations went dark, as far as Dish’s ‘local into local’ carriage is concerned, on October 10. The carriage terms in place expired at the end of September but the two parties had agreed to extensions which expired October 10.

A statement from Tegna late on Friday night (October 9) said: “Tegna has worked hard over the course of months to reach a deal with DISH. Our position has been simple: the same fundamental terms that allowed us to reach deals with distributors nationwide should serve as the basis for our deal with DISH. Rather than accepting that fair, market-based approach, DISH has refused to reach an agreement and once again is preventing its customers from accessing valued channels, even as customers continue to pay for that content. Despite DISH’s repeated efforts to blame programmers, the record is crystal clear – DISH is a serial dropper of channels. It has been responsible for the largest broadcast blackout in history and routinely drops valued cable and broadcast channels. TEGNA, on the other hand, has never been in this position before because we have always been able to reach fair agreements with distributors without disrupting our viewers.”

Dish, in its statement, said: “With DISH willing to grant an extension and a retroactive true up on rates, TEGNA had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channels up,” said Warren Schlichting, DISH SVP/programming. “Instead, TEGNA chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent consumers as bargaining chips.”

DISH and TEGNA, said the statement, “had been making steady progress in their recent negotiations, and DISH was hopeful that they would come to a mutual agreement to renew carriage of the TEGNA local stations. In that spirit, DISH offered a short-term contract extension to TEGNA that would include a retroactive true-up when new rates were agreed upon, and would preserve the ability of DISH customers to access the TEGNA local stations while negotiations continued. The true-up would ensure that TEGNA was made whole at the new rates for the period of any contract extension.”

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