Nexstar Bites Back

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The ongoing retransmission consent battle between Dish Network and Nexstar Media Group continued Friday, with the station group claiming that Dish has declined reasonable offers to settle the dispute.

Dish fired the first shot in the dispute on Thanksgiving Day, claiming that Nexstar is threatening to darken its 164 stations across the country to Dish subscribers if it is not paid what the satellite service provider claims are unprecedented rate increases.

“Nexstar is intentionally turning its back on its public interest obligation and instead demanding consumers pay significantly more for the channels they could receive for free over-the-air,” Dish TV group president Brian Neylon said in a press release. 

Nexstar said in its own press statement that its stations will go dark to Dish customers at 7 p.m. local time on Dec. 2 if a retransmission consent deal is not reached. Nexstar added that talks have been ongoing since July, and that Dish has rejected reasonable offers from the broadcaster at rates the distributor’s peers have agreed to in the past. 

“Since July, Nexstar has been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable multi-year contract with Dish, offering Dish the same fair market rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations in 2019 and 2020,” Nexstar said in the release. The satellite TV company, Nexstar claims,  has instead countered those offers by proposing rates that go “significantly backward” and by threatening to drop Nexstar’s cable channel, WGN America. 

Nexstar also pointed out Dish’s past retrans and carriage scuffles, adding that in 2020 alone, the company has dropped network or local community programming from The E.W. Scripps Co., Cox Media Group, Mission Broadcasting, and the NFL Network. In contrast, Nexstar pointed to its recent carriage deals, adding that in October alone it had reached agreements with nearly 200 distribution partners and that since purchasing Tribune Media in September 2019, it has completed agreements with distributors covering more than half of its U.S. footprint.

“If the companies are unable to reach an agreement, Dish subscribers in 115 Nexstar markets from Los Angeles to Charlotte will lose access to thousands of hours of vitally important local news, just as the country prepares for an explosion in new coronavirus cases and a new President prepares to take office,” Nexstar said in the release. “Dish subscribers will also lose the ability to access the NFL and college football games scheduled for the weekend of December 5-6, and all of the entertainment programming provided by Nexstar’s network partners, CBS, FOX, NBC, ABC, The CW and MyNet."

Nexstar said that it still hopes to hammer out a deal in time. But if that fails, it intends to “actively educate” customers in the affected markets -- mainly by urging them to drop Dish and signing on with alternative distributors that carry the networks. 

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.