Dish Subs Blacked Out by Apollo Northwest Stations

Dish Network said that its subscribers lost access to the signal from stations bought by Apollo Global Management in 10 markets at 7 p.m. Saturday as retransmission consent negotiations failed.

Apollo acquired the stations from Northwest Broadcasting last year.

Dish said that Apollo was seeing to double the payments it gets and that it turned down an offer to extend the current deal--with payments--to get subscribers through the Super Bowl. The NFL plays its conference championship games Sunday.

“Apollo doesn’t care how high a customer’s bill gets. It's trying to squeeze every last penny out of consumers to recoup the billions it spent buying these stations,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish senior VP of programming. “They are fund managers built to serve wealthy private investors, not local viewers. For Apollo it’s about a number. For Dish it’s about customers.”

Dish noted that its subscriber will be able to see the NFL games with an antenna or by streaming them on mobile devices.

“Apollo intentionally delayed negotiations and purposely chose NFL Championship weekend to remove its channels, to inflict maximum pain for consumers. The channels could come back today if Apollo would give us the green light,” said LeCuyer. “On behalf of customers, we ask Apollo to stop punishing its own viewers so we can focus on reaching a fair deal.”

Apollo’s Cox Media Group ran a generic message on the web site of its station in Syracuse.

“We have negotiated in good faith to come to an agreement with DISH," said CMG president Kim Guthrie. “[Station] has made significant investments in people, programming, and equipment, to make them best in class. We are simply seeking a fair agreement with DISH to carry these channels. Dish already pays much more for national networks like ESPN, even though far fewer people watch ESPN than any of our local stations.” Guthrie continued, “It should also be noted that ESPN and the other national networks Dish favors have no local news, have no local employees, and offer nowhere near the same high-quality, compelling programming that our stations provide to their local communities. Dish is seeking the right to [Station] at well below current market rates and on terms that no other video provider has demanded. With NFL playoffs going on and the Super Bowl coming up soon, Dish is really showing how little it cares about its customers. All viewers should keep in mind that every one of our stations remains available for free over the air at all times.”

Dish is also concerned that Apollo might also pull the 14 stations it acquired from Cox Enterprises. It said it signed a multi-year agreement with Cox last year and has gotten a temporary restraining order that should prevent a blackout.

“Apollo’s attempt to rip up an existing multiyear contract with Dish that was signed just last spring is like a bank taking over a mortgage and then increasing the homeowner’s monthly payment,” said LeCuyer.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.