Dish Girds for Mission Broadcasting Retrans Fight

Dish Network is gearing up for a retransmission consent battle with Mission Broadcasting as the existing deal to carry the broadcaster’s 26 stations is set to expire Friday night (Sept. 11).

Mission has shared services agreements with Nexstar Media Group for many of its properties, and operates in 21 markets across the country, including Davenport, Iowa; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Burlington, Vermont. The company also has been an aggressive buyer of stations. In the past several months it has reached agreements to purchase six stations -- mainly through purchase options granted to Nexstar when it sold stations to comply with federal regulations around its acquisition of Tribune Media. Those stations, which are not affected by this dispute, are: WPIX (CW) in New York; KWBQ (CW) and KASY (MyNet) in Albuquerque, New Mexico; WLAJ (ABC) in Lansing, Michigan; WXXZ (Fox) in Albany, New York; and WNAC (Fox) in Providence, Rhode Island.  

Dish and Mission already had a retrans battle earlier this year when stations in 18 markets went dark on Jan. 5.  Those stations were returned to the satellite TV services' customers in March, as part of several short-term agreements Dish made with broadcasters at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The Mission mini-deals were only supposed to last until April 13, according to some reports, but were extended as the pandemic worsened. Apparently, those agreements have reached the end of their useful lives.

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In a statement, Dish TV president Brian Neylon said that Mission is demanding fee increases of 50%.

“Has their content gotten 50% better? Of course not! Yet somehow they expect customers to pay up through threats of taking their stations down, “ Neylon said in the statement, adding that Mission is requiring that Dish customers that do not subscribe to local broadcast channels to pay for the stations.

“Not only would this outrageous demand effectively increase the cost for all customers, it violates the entire notion of consumer choice," Neylon continued. “Dish doesn’t want our customers to be impacted in any way- not through outrageous price increases or unfair takedowns. We’ve offered an extension to keep stations up so that viewers won’t be impacted, but Mission has refused. They’d clearly rather use viewers as pawns, and they know the beginning of the NFL season is a great time to do so.”

The NFL season officially kicked off Thursday (Sept. 10) with the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. But this weekend (Sept. 13) is the first to have a full slate of games.  

On its station websites, Mission claims that it has made a proposal that represents fair compensation for the programming it offers. 

“Despite our tireless efforts, Dish has refused our fair offer and is making negotiations very difficult," Mission said on its websites. "You’ve likely seen them do this before. It might interest you to know that Dish regularly holds their subscribers hostage in these situations, by far more than any other cable, satellite or telcom provider. They will tell you it’s for your benefit, but don’t believe it. Our offer is fair." 

The affected stations are:

KLJB Davenport-Rock Island-Moline, Iowa; KPEJ (Fox) Odessa-Midland, Texas; KMSS (Fox) Shreveport, Louisiana; KRBC (NBC) Abilene-Sweetwater, Texas; KCIT (Fox) and KCPN (MNT) Amarillo, Texas; WVNY (ABC) Bennington County, Vermont; KHMT (Fox) Billings, Montana; WVNY (ABC) Burlington, Vermont-Plattsburgh, New York; WFXP (Fox) Erie, Pennsylvania; WTVW (CW) Evansville, Indiana; KFQX (Fox) Grand Junction-Montrose Colorado; KODE (ABC) Joplin, Missouri-Pittsburg, Kansas; KASN (CW) and KLRT (Fox) Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Arkansas; KAMC (ABC) Lubbock Texas; KTVE (NBC) Monroe, Louisiana-El Dorado, Arkansas; WTVO (ABC) Rockford, Illinois; KSAN (NBC) San Angelo, Texas; KOLR (CBS) Springfield, Missouri; WAWV (ABC) Terre Haute, Indiana; WUTR (ABC) Utica, New York; KJBO (MNT) and KJTL (Fox) Wichita Falls-Lawton, Texas; WYOU (CBS) Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pennsylvania; and WVNY (ABC) Windham County, Vermont.

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.