Comcast SportsNet Chicago Launches Dish Blackout Ads

Related: CBS, Dish Agree to Extension

Comcast SportsNet in Chicago Thursday began running ads warning viewers that Dish Network might drop the regional sports channel at the end of the month.

The ads join a barrage against Dish from CBS and Turner Broadcasting, which are also in carriage disputes with the satellite carrier.

The Comcast SportsNet ads say "Attention Dish customers. What if you could no longer watch all your local Bulls, Blackhawks, Sox and Cub games. If Dish drops Comcast SportsNet, that's what's going to happen."

The ads urge viewers to "tell Dish you want to keep your teams. Call 1 844 I Want CSN and demand Dish keep Comcast Sports Net."

Dish says Comcast is seeking big hikes for its networks.

"Comcast SportsNet is demanding a 40% price increase for more than 90% of Dish customers in each of the affected markets, when only a small fraction of those consumers actually watch the channels," Dish said in a statement. "This heavy-handed tactic is troubling given Comcast's proposed merger with Time Warner Cable that would allow it to exercise even more power to leverage programming content in anti-competitive ways."

In response, Comcast’s  NBCUniversal unit said that it is seeking to license its regional sports networks to Dish on the same terms that other distributors have accepted. “Our rates are reflective of the very high value of this programming, a value that is recognized by consumers through the increased ratings for these RSNs. Collectively, these RSNs present 2,200 live sporting events annually, and live sports account for the vast majority of the highest rated programming in the country,” NBCU said in a statement. “Comcast has nothing to do with this dispute, which is 100 percent created by Dish's unwillingness to negotiate for comparable terms of carriage set by the market. As with Dish’s current disputes with Turner and CBS, and its well-established history of unreasonable negotiating tactics that unfairly target consumers, this dispute is not at all impacted by Comcast's pending merger with Time Warner Cable.”

Dish dropped Comcast SportsNet New England on August 1, and has never carried networks in Philadelphia, the Northwest and SNY in NY.  Deals with seven other Comcast regional sports networks, including CSN Chicago, expire Dec. 1.

"With the upcoming expiration of our agreements, we are growing increasingly concerned that Dish is not willing to work toward mutually acceptable terms for continuing carriage of NBC Sports Group's portfolio of Comcast SportsNet regional networks," NBCU said in an earlier statement. "We feel that the time has come to inform our networks' passionate viewers of teams from Chicago, Washington D.C., Baltimore, San Francisco and Sacramento that they may soon be unable to watch their favorite NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS teams via Dish's service."

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.