Turner Steps Up Dish War of Words

Turner Broadcasting Networks CEO John Martin escalated the war of words with Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen Wednesday, adding that was surprised with the  satellite company's decision to drop its channels, adding that it seemed to center on Turner's inability to extend an expiration date for a channel that wasn’t up for renewal.

Turner channels CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, CNN en Español, HLN, truTV and Turner Classic Movies went dark to Dish’s 14 million customers on Oct. 20.On Tuesday, Ergen said that the company was ready to keep the channels off the air for the long haul, adding that Turner programming can be found through other sources.

On a conference call with analysts Wednesday to discuss quarterly results, Martin said he was stumped as to why Dish did not accept Turner’s carriage proposals, especially since the two had essentially agreed on terms weeks before.

“We disagree with virtually everything he [Ergen] said,” Martin said. "We were both disappointed in the very aggressive and antagonistic nature of his comments."

Martin added that Turner had even essentialy reached an agreement concerning Dish's planned over-the-top service, but Turner's participation in that service is unclear now.

"While there clearly were more deal points to get done, they are not of the type of nature that would result in networks going dark,” Martin continued. “All of us sitting around the table have been in this industry a long time, so we have a pretty good sense of what those are. It’s unclear exactly what the dispute with Dish is. We were told by them we were taken down because we wouldn’t move an expiration date later into the year.”

He added those networks weren’t up for renewal yet, which has led to some speculation that they are the TNT and TBS, which are expected to come up for renewal in the next month or so.

Ergen said Tuesday that losing TNT and TBS could be "more painful" and result in a loss of customers, but he was willing to sacrifice short term gains for longer term health.

“It would be a little but tougher if their original programming was a success like AMC,” Ergen said, adding that other Turner fare like reruns and even the NBA are available through other sources.

“When you start having a lot of your product being available [through] a lot of different sources, customers don’t want to pay for it twice,” Ergen said. “Sometimes they’re willing to watch it the next day or the next week in a more convenient structure, because young people are not watching stuff live now, except ESPN,” he added.

Dish officials did not immediately return requests for comment.