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The blood sport known as retransmission consent has developed into a new lawsuit from Dish Network against NBCUniversal alleging that “call to action” warnings made by the broadcaster to satellite TV customers represent a breach of contract.
In Illinois federal court, with blackouts for such cable networks as Bravo, MSNBC and USA looming, Dish is objecting to text crawls on viewers’ TV screens and advertisements that suggest Dish will soon “drop” NBC programming.
“The parties agreed to prohibit NBCU from engaging in these kinds of public communications because they cause actual harm to DISH,” states the complaint. “Among other things, DISH’s subscribers flood DISH’s customer services lines with questions about the NBCU messages, some subscribers cancel their DISH subscriptions, and DISH’s goodwill as a reliable service provider is eroded. These material breaches of the contracts are not capable of being cured, among other reasons, because once a customer changes service providers, DISH cannot get them back.”
Such messaging is hardly unusual on the eve of an expiration of a retrans agreement, and the FCC is currently reviewing the protocol when programmers and distributors negotiate with each other, but Dish is bringing a lawsuit anyway.
Dish, represented by Richard Patch at Coblentz Patch, demands monetary damages arising from increased expenditures, lost revenue and harm to its goodwill and reputation. However, if Dish and NBCU ultimately come to a new carriage deal, it’s highly likely that resolution of this dispute would be part of the pact.
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