Dish, Sarkes Tarzian Square Off

A pair of TV stations owned by Sarkes Tarzian have posted online notices to Dish customers that they may be losing access to the stations at the end of the month due to a failure to negotiate a new carriage deal with the satellite operator. Both sides claim they have offered contract extensions that would keep the stations on subscriber dishes, but that the other side has turned them down.

WRCB Chattanooga (Tenn.) and KTVN Reno (Nev.) have both posted red banners on their home pages reading "Special Notice for Dish Network Subscribers" and leading to a link that says they are continuing to negotiate a retrans deal with Dish, but that the satellite operator has declined an extension through the end of October. Dish counters it is the other way around.

"Dish Network refuses to negotiate a new agreement which recognizes KTVN's value to Dish and its subscribers," the stations tell viewers in essentially identical notices.  "We are literally talking about pennies a day for each subscriber.  Currently, Dish refuses to pay more than a penny a day for our local and CBS programming... while most subscribers are paying over $30 a month. We think you'll agree that KTVN's local news and information programming and our CBS programming is worth at least 2 cents a day."

Dish sent B&C/Multi a statement with its take on the retrans tussle, including their assertion that Dish did offer a contract extension that Sarkes Tarzian turned down, but it also said it was "hopeful" the two sides could still reach an agreement, though they seemed far apart.

"Sarkes Tarzian is demanding an outrageous price increase of 335% and threatening to block its channels if its demands are not met," said the statement. "It is disingenuous to claim it's pennies more per day. The reality is Sarkes is demanding millions of dollars more beyond what Dish Network pays today to Sarkes over the life of the contract. Their offer would be like demanding $12 for a gallon of milk then saying it's only a penny more per sip. Dish Network has offered an increase in fees to Sarkes but to demand a 335% rate hike is unheard of. In fact, Dish Network offered Sarkes a contract extension while negotiations take place, but they refused to accept it."

Meanwhile, the stations were asking viewers to contact Dish directly to call for an extension and advising them of their cable and over-the-air options.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.