The agreement means that Dish Network subscribers will continue to receive programming from 46 television stations owned or serviced by Tegna (formerly Gannett) past 7 PM ET tonight. That’s when the companies’ carriage contract expires.
It would be a big deal if Tegna stations go dark on Dish. The broadcaster reaches about a third of all households with the largest independently owned collection of major network affiliates in the 25 biggest markets. It’s the top owner of NBC and CBS affiliates, and is No. 4 with ABC.
A blackout also would come as the FCC weighs policy changes designed to discourage companies that can’t agree on deal terms from penalizing viewers.
The Web site for Tegna’s Washington, DC station, WUSA, warned Dish customers that they could lose its broadcasts tomorrow night. Although “we have never had a service disruption with a major distributor before,” it says that Dish “has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us – even though the terms being offered are similar to those which allowed us to reach deals with …other providers.”
Over the weekend Dish SVP of Programming Warren Schlichting, said that his company offered to pay Tegna higher rates retroactive to the contract expiration date if it agreed to keep its stations on the No. 2 satellite service while they continued to negotiate. But the broadcaster “has chosen to use consumers to gain leverage for the economic benefit of Tegna, while potentially causing substantial harm and disruption to the lives of those very same consumers who ultimately will bear the brunt of the unfair price increases sought by Tegna.”
Tegna shares are up 3.2% in early trading following the news. They’re down 40.8% since late June when the broadcast and digital operation split from Gannett’s print and digital news assets. Dish is up 4% this morning, and is down 19.5% so far this year.