About 47 Tegna stations in 39 markets across the country went dark to Dish Network subscribers at midnight on Dec. 1, after the two reached an impasse in their retransmission consent negotiations.
The Tegna stations that went dark are in 34 states and the District of Columbia and include NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox affiliates in Phoenix, Seattle, Houston and Denver. Dish has about 12.7 million subscribers across the country -- 10.3 million satellite TV customers and 2.4 million Sling TV OTT subscribers.
The blackout means Dish customers could miss out on NFL games from broadcasters NBC, CBS and Fox.
“Tegna has worked hard over the course of months to reach a fair, market-based carriage agreement with Dish, something we have successfully done with hundreds of cable and satellite providers across the country with no disruption of service,” Tegna said in a statement. “It is disappointing that we have been unable to reach such an agreement with Dish to support our ability to bring viewers high-quality news, sports, weather and entertainment programming.
“While we remain hopeful that this will get resolved quickly, Dish viewers should know our channels remain available on every other service provider in their community as well as many over-the-top (OTT) providers, who offer instant access when viewers sign up. As always, our stations are also available for free over-the-air and viewers can watch our newscasts live on our stations’ apps.”
Dish, which is offering its qualified customers affected by the blackout free antennas to capture Tegna station signals over the air, said in a statement the dispute is a move by the broadcaster to “gain negotiating leverage as it demands nearly double the monthly rates for its local channels, even as broadcast TV ratings decline.”
"Tegna refused Dish’s offer to extend the contract, instead choosing to black out its stations on the eve of college football's conference championships and during the homestretch for the NFL season,” Dish senior vice president of programming Andy LeCuyer said in a statement. “It couldn't be more obvious that Tegna is using its own viewers as leverage as it demands nearly double the monthly rates, even as ratings on broadcast TV are down double digits."
Dish has an ongoing retrans dispute with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, which went dark to customers in June. The dispute, now entering its sixth month, doesn’t appear likely to be resolved soon, especially after Dish chairman Charlie Ergen said in August that it could be “permanent.”
In November, premium channels HBO and Cinemax went dark to Dish subscribers in a similar carriage dispute.
Dish has argued that broadcast ratings are down -- it cited Nielsen reports that show ratings for the Big Four broadcasters (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) have fallen 12% in the past five years -- and don’t deserve the exorbitant rate increases stations are demanding.
In addition, Dish said Tegna rejected its offer of a short-term extension that would include a retro-active true-up after a deal was reached.
"The channels could come back today if Tegna would allow it, and we can restore the channels immediately if they give us the green light," LeCuyer said in his statement. "On behalf of customers, we ask Tegna to stop punishing its own viewers so we can focus on reaching a fair deal."
While Dish has encouraged viewers to watch NFL games over-the-air or by streaming on their phones, tablets or computers, a lengthy blackout could result in heavy customer losses. In the third quarter, Dish lost a record 367,000 satellite TV customers, about half of which could be tied to the Univision dispute. With NFL games at risk, the potential for even larger customer defections remains strong.
Dish customers can visit DISHPromise.com for more information.
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