The fight between Dish Network and Virginia-based Tegna, Inc. heated up today as Tegna rejected Dish’s contract extension offer, which included ‘true-up’ for new rates, and moved to black out Dish customers in 38 Markets. The move comes as part of what Dish characterizes as a plan to double Dish Network’s current rate. The extension would have spared customers a service interruption while negotiations between the two companies continues.
In a statement, Dish SVP Warren Schlichting slammed the move. “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. Instead, TEGNA chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent consumers as bargaining chips.”
Tegna was similarly firm. “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,” the company said in a statement issued tonight.
“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.”
The two cable giants have been fighting for weeks over the contract, with a temporary truce declared on October 1 in light of hurricane Joaquin, agreeing to an 8 day extension which ended tonight. “With Hurricane Joaquin forecast to potentially impact several Tegna markets,” the two companies said in a statement. “This extension ensures that critical programming remains available to all viewers.”
The blackout is of enormous consequence for Dish and for Dish network customers. Tegna has the largest group independently owned collection of major network affiliates, in 25 of the biggest markets. It happens to be the largest single owner of NBC and CBS affiliates, and is ABC’s number 4 owner. Markets served by Tegna include Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New Orleans, Portland, OR, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Antonio, and Seattle.