The just-released company statement tracks closely to Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin’s comments to analysts in a conference call this morning. The bottom line is that Turner doesn’t know what led Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen this month to scuttle contract talks to carry CNN, Cartoon Network and other channels (but not including TNT and TBS) allowing them to go dark. Ergen said yesterday that he’s prepared to forget about the services if there’s no deal within a month. So far the loss has been a “non-event,” he added. And while he’d like to have the Turner channels, without them “we would save a big, big, big check from a cash flow perspective. …We know how many minutes people watch CNN and how many minutes they watched five years ago and it’s hard to pay a double-digit price increase for something that people are watching half as much as they used to watch. It’s Turner’s job to make their product better. Not ours.”
Here’s Turner’s response:
We are disappointed in the aggressive nature of the comments from Dish Network, particularly given the fact that Dish agreed to our rates and carriage proposals weeks ago. We were supportive of the Dish OTT effort and had found common ground on the major issues there. While there were clearly deal points to get done, they were not the type you would usually go dark over. So it is still unclear to us exactly what this dispute is about. We’ve been told our networks were taken down because we would not move an expiration date later in the year.
Other top 5 distributors have signed up for what Dish has walked away from. The value of the Turner news, entertainment, kids and young adult brands and content are reflected in the leadership positions they hold across the media landscape. That includes 5 of the top 30 cable networks. So we honestly have no idea what Dish was talking about yesterday.
We’ve had a long-term relationship with Dish that has been good for both of us. That’s one of the reasons we agreed to multiple extensions during this negotiation process and have worked diligently to address their issues. We stayed at the table even after Dish removed our networks from their service and we’re hopeful we can get a deal done in the near future.