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Dish, Turner Deadline Nears

Turner Broadcasting System, embroiled in a nearly month-long carriage battle for eight of its channels with Dish Network, has stepped up its campaign to warn that its two most popular channels also could go dark to the satellite company’s subscribers on Dec. 5.

Eight Turner networks went dark to Dish’s 14 million customers on Oct. 20 – CNN, CNN en Español, HLN, Boomerang, truTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies – after the parties could not reach agreement.  Now the programmer said its two most-watched channels – TNT and TBS – could go dark when their current carriage deal expires on Dec. 5.

The programmer is revamping its marketing efforts on web site to reflect the possible loss of TNT and TBS, home of National Basketball Association games and Big Bang Theory re-runs, respectively.  On its site, Turner urges Dish customers to either switch providers or pressure Dish to reach a deal to ensure the channels aren’t disrupted.

“Our efforts in recent weeks to restore the Turner networks to Dish customers have been rejected at every turn by Dish leadership,” Turner said in a statement. “The upcoming expiration on Dec. 5 of our carriage agreement for TNT and TBS means Dish may drop those networks as well. We remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement that restores our networks to the air and eliminates the risk of Dish removing additional Turner networks from its channel lineup.”

Dish has claimed that Turner is simply asking for too much money for its channels. Recently, Dish CEO Joe Clayton said the loss of the eight Turner channels wasn’t having much of an impact on its subscriber base, but that could change if TNT and TBS go dark as well.

“TNT and TBS would cause a major hiccup,” Clayton said on a Nov. 4 earnings conference call with analysts.

Dish chairman Charlie Ergen on the same call said while losing the additional Turner channels would most likely have a negative impact on subscriber growth, there are some positives to consider, including not having to raise prices to cover rising programming costs.

“For those people who don't really care about news or cartoons, where we have other news shows and other cartoon shows, would they rather save the money? There's a pretty good chance that they would,” Ergen said on the Nov. 4 conference call.

News of the Dec. 5 deadline comes as CBS has also stepped up the pressure on Dish to reach agreementfor a carriage renewal for its channels, which could go dark as soon as the end of this month.