Dish Network subscribers in 26 markets — including Baltimore, Boston, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh — lost access to Hearst Television stations last night after the companies reached an impasse in their negotiations for a new carriage deal.
Per usual, the companies disagree about price: how much Dish should pay Hearst to carry its stations. It has 15 ABC affiliates and 12 with NBC along with a handful of CBS and CW outlets — many of which offer must-have NFL and other sports.
But deals today also typically involve other terms involving digital carriage. Dish owns the Sling TV live streaming service.
The previous deal expired at the end of February, but they agreed to a two-day extension.
“While we had hoped to conclude our negotiations before the extended March 3rd deadline, Dish has continued to insist on including material terms that are less favorable than our current agreement,” says Dave Abel, GM of Hearst’s WMTW in Portland, Maine. “In addition, Hearst Television has made significant investments to deliver top quality programming to our viewers and Dish is seeking the right to carry our stations at below market rates, which is neither fair nor reasonable.”
Dish sees things differently.
It says that the companies were making “steady progress” in their talks leading the No. 2 satellite company to offer a short term extension of their expiring contract. It also provided for a so-called “true-up” provision that would make the new prices retroactive to the period beginning after the earlier deal ended.
“Hearst had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channels up,” said Dish EVP of Programming Warren Schlichting says.
Instead, he adds, “Hearst is again turning its back on its public interest obligations and using innocent consumers as bargaining chips” — a reference to a similar retransmission dispute with DirecTV that led Hearst stations to go dark on the service in January.
Dish contends that Hearst wants “above-market rate increases” nearly twice the current rate along with “other unreasonable demands.” The satcaster also says that Hearst would not allow Dish to “match the rates paid by other pay-TV providers.”
The American Television Alliance — a group supported by several pay TV providers, including Dish, that wants to change federal rules governing retrans negotiations — says that there have been 102 cases so far this year where broadcasters’ signals have gone dark. That puts 2017 “on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever,” it says.