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Tribune: Stations Could Go Dark to Dish Subs Sunday

Dish Network customers in 33 markets could lose access to 42 Tribune stations unless the companies can reach a retransmission consent agreement by Sunday.

Dish and Tribune have been negotiating and could reach a deal by the 7 p.m. Sunday deadline, but Tribune is warning customers in Indianapolis; Richmond, Va.; Memphis and three other markets that they could miss Sunday's Tony Awards broadcast. Dish customers in New Orleans, Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pa.; and the Quad Cities could miss Game 5 of the NBA Finals and those in Des Moines, Ia., and Oklahoma City could lose access to Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals if a deal isn't reached. 

"We want to reach an agreement with Dish,” said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media’s senior vice president for corporate relations, in a statement. “We’ve offered the same fair market rates that Dish already pays other local station groups with ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliates with top-rated local news, and other similarly valued cable networks. At the same time, we’re willing to accept the same rates for our local stations and WGN America that others are currently paying us. Dish has refused our offer.” 

In addition, about 7 million Dish customers could lose access to cable channel WGN America if a new deal isn't signed.

“Our offer demonstrates that we want to continue servicing our local communities. However, we are less than 36 hours from the deadline to reach an agreement with Dish, just as we have done with every one of our other cable, satellite and telco distributors. Dish, however, is notorious for taking other broadcasters and cable networks off their system rather than agree to market rates. We want to make sure that Dish subscribers who rely us for news, traffic, weather and live sports are aware that they may lose it all, along with losing access to WGN America.”    

“Only Tribune Broadcasting Company can force a blackout of its channels," Dish said in a statement. "Dish is actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires, and we have offered a contract extension to Tribune to keep the channels available to customers in the event that we are unable to reach a deal by the deadline. Dish has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers. We are unsure why Tribune decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process at a point when there is still time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal.”

Weitman added in a separate statement that Dish had rejected an earlier offer by Tribune for a 60 day extension while talks continued.

“There are significant issues left to negotiate between Tribune Broadcasting and Dish," Weitman said.  "We repeatedly offered Dish a 60 day extension which the company declined.”