UPDATED, 9:05 AM Sunday: Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Dish Network agreed to a short-term contract extension to avert a possible blackout of more than 150 channels in 79 markets across the country. The companies issued a statement at 3:30 AM ET Sunday confirming a temporary agreement to continue negotiations.
Dish filed a complaint Saturday with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, warning that “Sinclair is threatening the largest local channel blackout in retransmission consent history,” according to a Dish press release. Dish says Sinclair, a major broadcast station owner, won’t negotiate on Dish’s retransmission of Sinclair stations – which include affiliates with FOX, ABC, The CW and others – unless the Maryland-based Sinclair is also allowed to negotiate for 32 non-Sinclair stations in certain Sinclair markets.
In a response, Sinclair Broadcasting, ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy released a statement noting, “This is almost as bad as thieves looting a store before the police arrive. This week, the FCC Chairman indicated the need to take measures to protect consumers against this kind of abusive behavior, but with their backs against the wall, it appears that broadcasters are trying to squeeze every penny out of the system while they still can. This outrageous and unprecedented blackout should not happen.”
Sinclair’s contract with the Colorado-based Dish expired Saturday at 11:59 p.m. New York time. The two companies have tangled before, settling a 2012 fee dispute without service disruptions.
Earlier this week, Deadline’s David Lieberman reported that broadcasters are pushing to be paid for their signals, which pay TV operators in turn say pressures them to raise consumer rates. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he plans to circulate an order that would enable a pay TV company to import a signal from an out-of-market station if a local broadcaster pulls its programming in a contract dispute.