In Latest Retrans Beef, Dish Drops Fisher TV Stations

In the latest in a growing list of retransmission-consent disputes for Dish Network, the satellite provider Thursday dropped TV stations owned by Fisher Communications in seven Northwest markets, including a Univision affiliate in Seattle.

The markets affected by the dust-up in addition to Seattle are Bakersfield, Calif.; Boise, Idaho; Portland and Eugene, Ore.; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Yakima, Wash.

In Seattle, for example, Fisher owns ABC affiliate KOMO-TV and Univision affiliate KUNS-TV and in Bakersfield it owns KBAK-TV and KBFX-TV. It was unclear exactly how many stations are involved in the dispute.

In a press release, Dish Networks charged that Fisher “is demanding unreasonable contract terms and an excessive programming rate increase of 82% for continued carriage.” The Fisher’s contract with Dish Network expired Wednesday.

In order to “protect customers from unreasonable rate increases and to ensure they pay only a fair amount every month, Dish Network draws the line at such excess and challenges strong-arm tactics,” the company said.

Dish Network just resolved a similar retransmission-consent dispute with Young Broadcasting, restoring 10 TV stations Sunday after dropping them for three days. And the satellite provider is engaged in a retransmission-consent squabble with Communications Corp. of America that may result in its stations being dropped.

“Fisher Communications’ demands have forced us to remove this channel from our local programming line-up, forcing this disruption to our customers,” Eric Sahl, Dish Network’s senior vice president of programming, said in a prepared statement. “We continue to fight for our subscribers by remaining the leader in value and in order to do this, we need fair contracts and competitive pricing for our customers. This is why we refuse Fisher Communications’ request for increased pricing and unreasonable terms.

“We deeply regret the inconvenience this disruption may cause any of our subscribers,” Sahl said. “Subscribers should rest assured that we continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that Dish Network remains the source for the best quality TV at the best total value.”

In turn, Fisher’s station web sites have posted their arguments defending cash for carriage.

On KOMO’s site, for example, the station said, “Dish charges you a fee to receive KOMO. We believe Dish should be willing to pay a small portion of the fees you pay to Dish for the program content we provide to you. Our request is reasonable given our award-winning news, sport, and entertainment programming. It is considerably less than the amount paid by Dish for less popular satellite program networks.”

KOMO then goes on to list 2006 license fees for several dozen cable networks.

Univision has said that this is the first cycle where it will opt for retransmission-consent, rather than must-carry, for its owned-and-operated stations. Fisher owns Univision affiliate stations in several markets, not only Seattle but Yakima and Portland.