UPDATED 1:34 PM WITH DISH RESPONSE
Tribune Broadcasting’s television stations are warning Dish subscribers that they may lose local news, traffic, weather, sports and entertainment programming provided by Tribune’s 42 television stations at 7 pm ET Sunday when the contract between Tribune Broadcasting and Dish expires.
According to Tribune, the interruption could hit more than 50 million households in 33 markets across the United States, including such major markets as Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, Philadelphia and Seattle.
Tribune also says that approximately 7 million Dish subscribers across the country could lose access to Tribune’s basic cable network WGN America, home of Underground and Outsiders, and warns that Dish subscribers in Indianapolis, Richmond and Memphis, among several other markets, could miss out on tomorrow night’s Tony Awards.
Dish released the following statement in response:
“Only Tribune Broadcasting Company can force a blackout of its channels. Dish is actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires, and we have offered a contract extension to Tribune to keep the channels available to customers in the event that we are unable to reach a deal by the deadline.
“Dish,” the statement continued, “has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers. We are unsure why Tribune decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process at a point when there is still time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal.”
Tribune had earlier warned that subscribers “in New Orleans, Scranton/Wilkes Barre and the Quad Cities could lose access to Game 5 of the NBA finals tomorrow. Subscribers in Des Moines and Oklahoma City could be forced to go without access to the Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals tomorrow. Dish subscribers in New York could lose access to Mets and Yankees games on WPIX-TV, and subscribers in Chicago would lose access to White Sox and Cubs games on WGN-TV.”
“We want to reach an agreement with Dish,” said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media’s senior vice president for corporate relations. “We’ve offered the same fair market rates that Dish already pays other local station groups with ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliates with top-rated local news, and other similarly valued cable networks. At the same time, we’re willing to accept the same rates for our local stations and WGN America that others are currently paying us. Dish has refused our offer.”
Weitman added that, “Our offer demonstrates that we want to continue servicing our local communities. However, we are less than 36 hours from the deadline to reach an agreement with Dish, just as we have done with every one of our other cable, satellite and telco distributors. Dish, however, is notorious for taking other broadcasters and cable networks off their system rather than agree to market rates. We want to make sure that Dish subscribers who rely us for news, traffic, weather and live sports are aware that they may lose it all, along with losing access to WGN America.”
Weitman said “significant issues” remain to negotiate: “We repeatedly offered Dish a 60 day extension which the company declined.”
In April, Viacom announced that its channels would remain on Dish Network for several years following tense negotiations and threats that programming could go dark.