29 Hearst Stations Go Dark On Dish

About 29 Hearst Television stations in 25 markets across the country went dark to Dish Network subscribers Tuesday night after the parties failed to reach a retransmission consent agreement by the 9 p.m. Central Time deadline.

But the parties appear to differ on the reason for the blackout – Hearst says it’s not over money (which is typically at the heart of these disputes.)

"It appears that Dish does not have a problem with the rates we are seeking," said Dan Joerres, president and general manager of Hearst’s Baltimore station WBAL-TV, in a statement. "But the Dish negotiating team is seeking other terms that we don't have in our deals with any other cable or satellite distributor or telco, nor do we have them in our current deal with Dish. Frankly, we are scratching our heads as to why Dish would hold their own customers and our viewers hostage for terms that are radically off-market."

WBAL did not elaborate.

Dish was equally vague in its own statement, saying Hearst is using the blackout to make demands the satellite giant apparently is reluctant to identify.

 “Hearst blacked out its channels to use viewers as bargaining chips as it makes unreasonable demands on Dish and its customers,” Dish executive vice president and chief commercial officer Dave Shull said in a statement. “We offered to keep the channels on while we try to reach a deal, but Hearst refuses to put viewers first.”

Hearst noted that it has a history of successfully negotiating retrans deals with no disruptions of service. And it insisted it did not black out its station – its programming is available over the air as well as via other distributors.

Dish said it had offered a short-term contract extension to Hearst while it worked on a compromise, but Hearst declined. The two parties continue to negotiate.

 “We are actively working to negotiate an agreement that promptly returns this content to DISH’s programming lineup,” added Shull in his statement.

Dish spokesman John Hall declined to elaborate.

The impasse comes about a month after Dish worked out a landmark carriage and retrans deal with The Walt Disney Co., that included extensive digital rights and the opportunity for Dish to use content from five Disney cable channels and its ABC broadcast network stations for a future over the top Internet video service. Many analysts believed that deal would be a template for future deals for the satellite giant.

The Hearst action includes ABC, NBC, CBS, The CW, My Network TV and independent stations in the following markets: Albuquerque, N.M.; Baltimore; Boston; Burlington, Vt.; Cincinnati; Des Moines, Iowa; Ft. Smith-Fayetteville, Ark.; Greensboro, N.C.; Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Honolulu; Jackson, Miss.; Kansas City, Mo.; Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee; Monterey-Salinas, Calif.; New Orleans; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Omaha, Neb.; Orlando, Fla.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland-Auburn, Maine; Sacramento, Calif.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.