Dish, Comcast RSNs Face Midnight Carriage Expiration

The carriage contracts between Dish and four Comcast SportsNet regionals expire at midnight as the threat of darkness continues to loom for the DBS provider’s subscribers.

The deals for four Comcast SportsNet services – Bay Area, California, Mid-Atlantic and Chicago – conclude at the end of Dec. 1, with the RSNs potentially going black shortly thereafter.

NBC Sports Group, which operates the RSNs, on Nov. 20 launched multimedia campaigns – on the networks’ websites, plus on-air crawls and reads – warning Dish subscribers about possible drops and urged them to call  1-888-I-Want-CSN or Visit I Want

On Nov. 25, the programmer established dedicated microsites, where Dish subscribers can voice their support for the RSNs. Combined with the toll-free calls, the number of visits to the sites and tweets on the topic, NBCU said there has been plenty of support among the RSNs’ subscribers who want to continue to watch the networks and the attendant clubs and programming.  

"As the deadline with Dish approaches, we continue to negotiate as the tracked volume of calls, emails, tweets, website visits and petitions filed in support of CSN programming climbs into the hundreds of thousands,” said NBCUniversal. “Until an agreement is reached, we expect Dish customers who are growing tired of showdowns and blackouts to continue to voice their displeasure and consider other providers."  

Dish, which has been out of contract with CSN New England since Aug. 1 and is also engaged down-to-the-wire contract talks with CBS for its owned-and-operated stations and cable services, including premium programmer Showtime and CBS Sports Network, declined on Thursday afternoon.

Dish previously stated the Comcast RSNs were seeking a 20% increase in monthly license fees for 90% of its customers in the attendant markets, despite that only a “small fraction” of the sub bases watched the channels. The DBS company called this “heavy-handed tactic troubling” in light of Comcast's proposed merger with Time Warner Cable that would give it more power to leverage content in “anticompetitive ways.”

As mentioned, CSN New England, the home of the NBA Boston Celtics, has been off of Dish's air since for four months in a carriage dispute. Charlie Ergen's company has never carried CSN Philadelphia and CSN Northwest, or the recently shuttered CSN Houston.  It previously distributed New York Mets-centric SNY, which NBC Sports Group operates and holds a stake in.