Dish Network Lowers the Boom on Voom

Dish Network, which has a history of dropping networks in squabbles with programmers, last week lowered the boom on Voom HD, taking down all 15 channels of the HD suite.

The satellite-TV provider, which is in the midst of litigation with Rainbow Media's Voom, dropped its networks in two stages, with the first 10 coming off overnight last Monday and the rest getting dropped the next evening.

Voom, which unsuccessfully tried to get a preliminary injunction against Dish Network to prevent its channels from being dropped, still has a lawsuit pending against the satellite provider.

But in the meantime, Dish Network's drop of Voom is a blow, since the HD suite's only other distributor is Cablevision Systems. That cable operator owns Voom's parent, Rainbow Media.

In the lawsuit it filed earlier this year, Voom said that if Dish Network dropped its HD networks, it would violate their affiliation deal and “will deprive Voom HD of the substantial payments and broad distribution … to which it is unquestionably entitled under the agreement, thereby causing Voom HD irreparable and devastating harm, and threatening its continued existence.”

During a first-quarter conference call last Tuesday, Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen claimed Voom was in violation of its carriage agreement with Dish, voiding the deal. He noted that Dish Network had already dropped two-thirds of the Voom networks, and would soon drop the other five. Dish deleted them that night.

“EchoStar's decision to drop the Voom channels is unjustified and, we believe, is a violation of our distribution agreement,” a Rainbow spokesman said. “We are intent on enforcing our legal rights in court. Because the litigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Last Monday, Dish Network announced it was adding 22 HD networks. These HD networks, which include Sci Fi HD, are services that will be more popular with subscribers than Voom, Ergen said.

Although Dish Network had boasted in its press release that it was up to 95 national HD networks, the Voom drops bring that count down to an estimated 80.

In 2005 EchoStar Communications, now Dish Network, bought Voom's satellite from Cablevision for $200 million. An EchoStar affiliate, EchoStar Media Holdings, got a 20% stake in Voom HD as part of that sale.

Dish Network planned to use a satellite, AMC-14, that wound up failing to launch HD services this year.

“When that satellite failed, we had to rejigger an awful lot of stuff,” Ergen said.