Univision Takes Dish Fight Up a Notch

With its Dish Network carriage dispute entering its fourth month, Spanish language broadcaster Univision Communications has started a series of spots warning customers that its popular sports channel Univision Deportes, could be next on the satellite service’s chopping block.

Univision channels including its broadcast network, TV stations and pay TV offerings like Galavision and UniMas went dark to Dish subscribers on June 30 after the parties could not reach a carriage deal. Univision Deportes, which offers soccer matches and other sports, is on a separate contract and was not affected by that deal.

Univision began warning viewers Oct. 23 that it may lose UDN soon if a wider deal isn’t reached via social media and the Web. The spots warn Dish customers that in addition to the comedy, drama and news shows they and their families are missing because of the Dish blackout, they could soon lose access UDN sports programming, including popular La Liga MX soccer matches from Mexico.

“If you’re a Dish customer, you’ve already missed more than 100 top-tier soccer matches on Univision, UniMás and Galavision since the end of June," UDN sportscaster Lindsay Casinelli says in one spot. "Now, Dish customers could lose access to UDN, putting you at risk of losing hundreds more matches from Liga MX, UEFA Champions League, the Mexican National Team, the U.S. National Teams and many more top soccer properties. Enough is enough! It’s time to find a new TV provider that treats its Spanish-speaking customers and soccer fans with the respect we deserve."

Dish declined comment.

Dish has argued that its customers don’t watch Univision. Most Dish customers interested in Spanish language content opt for Telemundo, the satellite giant has said, which has less of a focus on telenovela programming. In August, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen said the Univision blackout is “probably permanent.” 

Univision has claimed the opposite, adding that its networks are among most-watched programming for Dish subscribers. And according to Nielsen, UDN is one of the most watched sports networks on Dish, regardless of language, ranked No.2 behind ESPN.

Dish customers have already lost access to a number of soccer matches on Univision, UniMás and Galavision since June 30. If UDN were to go dark, that would mean the loss of nearly all Liga MX matches right before the playoffs. In addition, Dish customers could lose access to Mexican and U.S. National Team matches, the UEFA Champions League, MLS and Bundesliga, as well as events like the Gold Cup.

“Hispanic consumers’ need for trustworthy news and information is as urgent as ever, and Dish took away their number one source nearly four months ago,” Univision said in a statement. “Dish executives seem to think that offering an English-as-a-Second-Language channel is an appropriate replacement for the coverage that Jorge Ramos and our correspondents are delivering live from the front lines in Mexico on the humanitarian migrant crisis. Now, Dish is close to further gutting its Spanish-language offering by dropping Univision Deportes Network, leaving its customers without access to more than 1,100 top-tier soccer matches. We want what is best for our audience and we remain open and willing to negotiate. However, if Dish won’t negotiate or is unwilling to come to reasonable terms, we are confident that our audience will continue to access our content from other distributors as they are already doing in droves.”