If you’re a Dish Network subscriber, brace for impact: Thanks to an ongoing carriage dispute between the satellite television provider and the broadcasting company Sinclair, more than 100 local TV stations could soon be removed from the TV service.
Ahead of an Aug. 16 negotiation deadline, Dish and Sinclair have yet to come to terms on an agreement for how the latter company is allowed to combine its regional sports networks with local broadcast network affiliates. While both sides are, predictably, saying that the other is to blame, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen characterized the dispute more succinctly as being “about money.”
“It’s about economics,” Ergen said. “That hasn’t changed in any programming negotiation that I’ve been involved with.”
According to Sinclair, the fallout from the failure to reach an agreement will likely impact around 3.5 million subscribers in 38% of the U.S.
“We have tried unsuccessfully to reach fair and customary terms with Dish Network for the renegotiation of our retransmission consent,” David Gibber, Sinclair’s General Counsel, said in a statement. “Given the status of these negotiations, we feel it is important to alert Dish Network subscribers to the real risk that some of their favorite stations will no longer be available through Dish Network including their access to live, local news, popular syndicated programming, sports programming including college and NFL football, and the network programming of our ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CW affiliates in those markets.”
In addition to the extensive list of channels that Sinclair says could soon be dropped, DISH subscribers are also at risk of losing Tennis Channel, Gibber added.
While Sinclair in a press release blamed Dish for having a “demonstrated track record of dropping local and national programming that viewers value,” Dish fired back in a statement of its own, claiming that Sinclair “...is trying to use its market power to demand an unreasonable fee increase, using millions of Americans as pawns in its negotiations.”
“Sinclair is demanding Dish pay nearly a billion dollars in fees for their television channels – a massive increase from what we pay for these same channels today despite declining viewership,” Dish TV group president Brian Neylon said in the statement.
Ergen, for his part, is well known in the industry for his resistance to increased carriage fees, and recently proved that he was willing to sacrifice subscribers in a similarly drawn-out and costly 2019 dispute with HBO and Univision over sports programming.
Asked by Deadline if there’s any end in sight to the current battle with Sinclair over RSNs and broadcast stations, Ergen seemed to imply that Dish was in the power position.
“We don’t have any customers calling us on RSNs today,” he said. “If the local channels were to go down, we would have more than one customer calling us the next day saying, ‘Where’s my local channel?’”