Dish Network subscribers shouldn’t get their hopes up that they’ll see Tribune Media’s 42 TV stations and WGN America any time soon, the broadcaster warns.
The outlets went dark on Dish on June 12 after the companies failed to agree on terms to renew a retransmission contract.
But “despite Tribune Media’s best efforts, an agreement with Dish is not imminent, and Dish subscribers should consider switching providers before the start of football’s regular season in a few weeks,” the company says.
Tribune was ticked off by a Dish release today in which Marketing, Programming and Media Sales EVP Warren Schlichting said that Tribune is “back at the table and we are making headway that I am hopeful will get these channels back to our customers soon.”
He added that Tribune had “stopped negotiating for five weeks, delaying a resolution.”
That’s “patently false, and further evidence of Dish’s willingness to mislead its customers and our viewers,” Tribune says in a statement.
Broadcasters usually gain the upper hand in retransmission disputes as the football season approaches. Fans who don’t think twice about the loss of programming options during the summer often lose patience when the fall comes and they find they won’t be able to watch their favorite teams.
Not surprisingly, Tribune is putting the pressure on Dish by purchasing local ads that tell NFL fans the specific games they’ll miss while the dispute remains unresolved.
Tribune CEO Peter Liguori told analysts last week that his company is “working every day to try to reach [an] agreement.”
He added that “when you look at the strength of the NFL, when you look at the fall premieres that are coming up, it’s programming like that which we believe will help accelerate our negotiations and get us to a deal that both Dish and we can live with.”
In July, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen told analysts that WGNA has been a sticking point.
“It’s not a super popular channel for Dish customers,” he says. By negotiating for WGNA plus the broadcast stations “you end up with a wide gap and disparity in terms of where both companies see the values. So that takes a bit more art of compromise to figure that out. And that sometimes takes time.”
Although the talks would probably “approach the point of no return as football season comes online,” Ergen says that Dish is “prepared to live without Tribune and WGN America as a company. We know we’d lose some subscribers as a result of that. We’d save a lot of money in terms of fees, and we’re certainly prepared for that.”
Ergen added that “we don’t walk out the door easily. But if they kick us out the door, then the door shuts, then so be it.”