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Dish and Tegna Near Retrans Blackout

Dish Network and Tegna, the broadcaster formerly known as Gannett before it spun off its newspapers, are approaching the expiration of their transmission consent agreement and are warning viewers that a blackout is possible.

The deadline is 7 p.m. on Sept. 30. The expiration would affect 51 stations in 39 markets.

“Only Tegna can choose to black out its channels. Dishis actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish senior VP of programming. “We have offered a contract extension to Tegna, including a retroactive ‘true up’ when new rates are agreed upon, to keep the channels available to customers in the event that we are unable to reach a deal by the deadline.”

On the website of Tegna’s WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., Tegna said it has agreements with other carriers. “Unfortunately, so far Dish has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us – even though the terms being offered are similar to those which allowed us to reach deals with these other providers,” the company said.

The broadcaster added that “in recent months Dish has demonstrated a disturbing willingness to take stations away from its viewers. In fact, just this past August Dish blacked out broadcast networks in multiple markets across the country, impacting millions of families like yours. It is our sincere hope that Dish does not go down that same road in this case.”

Dish said it has made agreement with hundreds of station in recent months. “We are unsure why Tegna 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,” the satellite provider said.

Dish said that it and Tegna had been making steady progress in their negotiations.

“Since we offered to retroactively true them up when new rates were agreed upon, Tegna has nothing to lose and consumers have everything to gain from an extension of our existing contract that would allow negotiations to continue,” Schlichting said .“Instead, Tegna has not accepted our offer and has chosen to use consumers to gain leverage for the economic benefit of Tegna, while potentially causing substantial harm and disruption to the lives of those very same consumers who ultimately will bear the brunt of the unfair price increases sought by Tegna.” 

Also on the retrans front, AT&T U-verse and Tribune are approaching the expiration of their deal on Sept. 30, as is AT&T-owned DirecTV with Media General.

Update: Tegna on Sunday issued a statement: "The interests of Dish subscribers and our viewers are best served through a long-term contract for carriage of our local stations. If both parties remain 100 percent focused on productive, market-based negotiations there is no reason a deal cannot be reached before the contract expires. Tegna remains entirely committed to that goal."

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.