Dish, CBS Gear Up For Retrans Battle

In a sign that its talks with the satellite giant may not be going so well, CBS has started to warn  Dish Network subscribers in 14 cities that it may go dark soon if the companies can’t agree on a transmission consent deal.

CBS has launched website to warn viewers they may lose access to popular shows like The Big Bank Theory, NCIS, Blue Bloods and National Football League games if the sides cannot reach agreement.

CBS has about 14 owned and operated stations, seven The CW stations, two MyNetworkTV and three independent stations across the country, including markets like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco. In addition, Dish’s 14 million subscribers across the country could lose access to premium network Showtime and cable channel CBS Sports Network if a deal is not reached.

Dish said in a statement that it continues to negotiate with CBS and hopes to reach an agreement before the contract expires, which according to reports could be as soon as the end of the month.

“Only CBS can force a blackout of its channels,” Dish said in a statement. “Dish is actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires and has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers. We are unsure why CBS decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process at a point when there is time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal.”

Signs that the negotiations were hitting a snag surfaced earlier in the month in reports that said the two were far apart on a deal, mainly over price.  Last year CBS went dark to about 3 million Time Warner Cable customers for a month, which was a major factor in third quarter subscriber losses nearly doubling to 306,000 customers. Dish has been known to take a hard line in carriage negotiations – it is currently in a dispute with Turner Broadcasting System where seven of that programmers channels went dark to Dish customers on Oct. 20. In the past several years Dish has endured long periods without top cable channels like AMC Networks and Lifetime.