Fox News, FBN Dark To Dish Subscribers

In a carriage dispute, Dish subscribers can no longer see Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.

As is generally the case, both sides, which faced contract expiration at 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Dec. 20, blamed the other for the disconnect.

Typically, when a service disruption occurs it is the programmer that pulls the signal, as the distributor is more than happy to continue to offer the content under the prevailing rate under the extant contract.

However, officials for 21st Century Fox said it was Dish that made the move at about 11:50 p.m. on Saturday night.  

“Fox News Channel did not disconnect Dish.  Rather, Dish prematurely ceased distribution of Fox News in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations,” said Tim Carry, executive vice president FCN and FBN. “It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider.  Hopefully they will vote with their hard earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately.”

Dish, which earlier in the day reached a renewal with four Comcast SportsNet regional services, offered a different take on the proceedings. The DBS distributor, which has reportedly replaced FNC with Glenn Beck's The Blaze and FBN with CNBC,  said it broached a short-term extension offer, with the intent that negotiations would continue, and it was 21st Century Fox that blocked customer access to the two networks as the “media conglomerate introduced other channels into negotiations, despite those channels not being included in the contract up for renewal.”

“It’s like we’re about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish senior vice president of programming. “Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract.”

Schlichting added: “Dish has had a productive relationship with Fox for many years. We regret the service disruption to our customers, and remain committed to reaching an agreement that promptly returns this content to Dish’s programming lineup.”

Carry expressed disappointment, noting the blackout occurred after nearly two decades of uninterrupted service. “We care deeply about our viewers and hope that they will regain access to the number one cable news channel soon. We will continue to work around the clock to reach an agreement with Dish, as we have done with every other pay-TV provider for 18 years. This is the third time in as many months that Dish customers have suffered through a blackout due to Dish’s intransigence. Dish’s record speaks for itself, and makes its rhetoric about ‘reasonable’ agreements ring hollow.”

Indeed, the scorecard shows that it’s been a very busy few weeks for the nation’s  No. 2 DBS provider. On Dec. 5 at 7 p.m., CBS pulled the signals for owned-and-operated stations in 18 stations during retransmission-contretemps, before restoring them about 12 hours later on that Saturday morning. CBS, which had granted Dish three extensions, also inked a new pact for Showtime Networks and other cable properties.

Last month, Turner Broadcasting System agreed to an extension, which sources say lasts into March, with Dish, an accord that put eight of its pay TV networks -- CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, TCM, HLN, CNN en Espanol and Boomerang --  back in front of Dish’s 14 million customers after they went dark on Oct. 20. The Nov. 21 extension also averted a blackout of its flagship TNT and TBS networks.

There also were more peaceful programming notes,  Nexstar Broadcasting,  after granting a third extension, reached a renewal on Dec. 10 with Dish for 60 network affiliated and local stations in 46 markets.

As alluded to above, Dish has also inked a new deal with the NBC Sports Group for four Comcast SportsNet regionals: Mid-Atlantic, Chicago, Bay Area and California. NBC Sports Group afforded the DBS provider an extension on Dec. 2, ahead of the end of their contract that night.

Although the parties reached a deal on Dec. 19, CSN New England, the home of the NBA Boston Celtics, continues to remain dark to Dish customers. The parties have been out of contract there since Aug. 6