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Dish, TEGNA Brace For Retrans Battle

Dish Network  and Tegna stations across the country appear to be gearing up for a retransmission consent battle, with the satellite giant pressing the broadcaster for an extension to their existing agreement as they race to hammer out a permanent deal by the Sept. 30 deadline.

Tegna (formerly Gannett) has 51 stations in 39 markets in Dish territory and began warning customers through their respective websites that a blackout could be coming if the parties don’t reach an agreement. The affected stations include Tegna's stations like KING-TV (NBC) and KONG-TV (Independent) in Seattle;  WFAA-TV (ABC) in Dallas; KUSA-TV (NBC) in Denver; and WUSA-TV (CBS) in Washington, D.C.

Both parties say they have been working toward a deal but recetly appear to have hit a snag in their talks.

 “Unfortunately, so far Dish has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us – even though the terms being offered are similar to those which allowed us to reach deals with these other providers,” Tegna’s Seattle stations KING-TV and KONG-TV said on their websites.  “If a deal is not reached by [7 p.m. ET]. on Sept. 30, Dish subscribers could lose access to KING and KONG.” Tegna added that it has never had a blackout with a major distributor and has recently reached several retrans renewal deals with top cable and .telco TV companies.

In a statement, Tegna appeared open to forging a deal before the deadline.

"The interests of Dish subscribers and our viewers are best served through a long-term contract for carriage of our local stations," Tegna said in the statement. "If both parties remain 100% focused on productive, market-based negotiations there is no reason a deal cannot be reached before the contract expires. Tegna remains entirely committed to that goal."

If the stations go dark it will be the second major blackout Dish has endured this year. In August, Dish warned that 129 stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group could go dark if a deal wasn’t reached by Aug. 15. Although Dish received a short-term extension, the Sinclair stations did go dark for about a day before they were able to reach an agreement and make them available to the satellite giant’s customers.

In a statement, Dish urged Tegna to grant an extension to the deal, offering a retroactive “true-up” for  new rates.

"Since we offered to retroactively true them up when new rates were agreed upon, Tegna has nothing to lose and consumers have everything to gain from an extension of our existing contract that would allow negotiations to continue," Dish senior vice president of Programming Warren Schlichting in a statement. "Instead, Tegna has not accepted our offer and has chosen to use consumers to gain leverage for the economic benefit of Tegna, while potentially causing substantial harm and disruption to the lives of those very same consumers who ultimately will bear the brunt of the unfair price increases sought by Tegna."

Dish and Tegna have been making steady progress in their recent negotiations, and Dish said it  was hopeful that a mutual agreement would be reached.

"Dish has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers," added Schlichting ni his statement. "We are unsure why Tegna decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process at a point when there is still time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal."

Other providers are also facing Sept. 30 retrans deadlines – AT&T U-Verse with Tribune Media stations and DirecTV with Media General in several markets.