Dish says in a complaint at U.S. District Court in Colorado that Tribune did cross a line: It accuses the broadcaster with making “false, misleading, deceptive and unfair statements” about the No. 2 satellite TV provider that encouraged customers to switch providers.
Dish wants Tribune to pay for lost revenue and “damages to Dish’s goodwill and reputation.” Tribune calls the charges “baseless,” adding that it will “respond to it in court.”
Tribune’s 42 TV stations and WGN America went dark on Dish on June 12 after the previous carriage deal expired. About 5 million of Dish’s satellite customers have been unable to see Tribune stations, and about 7 million are unable to watch WGNA.
Dish’s suit takes aim at Tribune ads that, among other things, say “customers give Dish the lowest rating for value,” referring to a “leading consumer survey” in 2015. The satellite company says it believes Tribune is referring to a Consumer Reports survey.
While it’s true that respondants gave Dish the lowest grade available for value, “they gave the same grade to 20 of the 24 providers included in the survey,” the company says. What’s more, on other metrics, Dish “is graded in the top five and is “graded higher than virtually all of the other well-known distributors, including AT&T, Cox, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast/Xfinity and Time Warner [Cable].”
Tribune “clearly intends for its campaign – including through intentionally inflicting economic harm – to force Dish to once again become its partner and renew its agreement to distribute Tribune Programming,” the company says. The “disparaging and defamatory comments about Dish cannot reflect an honestly-held belief or be made in good faith.”
It adds that the “primary sticking point” in the talks is “Tribune’s insistence that Dish agree to pay 2.4 times what Dish currently paid to Tribune for the right to retransmit the various broadcast network affiliates.”
Tribune didn’t respond directly to the charges. But it says that the suit is part of a “campaign of delay and distraction” that “does nothing to restore service to millions of Dish subscribers in our markets across the country, which should be Dish’s primary concern.”
“This is typical for Dish Network,” Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman says. “Dish constantly puts itself before the needs of its subscribers and our local viewers. Dish has forced other station groups and cable networks off its distribution system 15 times in the last three years — it’s one of the reasons the company has lost more than 150,000 subscribers in the last year alone.”