CBS Network, Stations Go Dark on Dish Amid Carriage Dispute

Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the New York Giants - Getty-H 2017
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The two companies are involved in negotiations over distribution fees.

With the Thanksgiving holiday and a host of NFL and college football games only days away, CBS and its stations in key markets went dark on Charlie Ergen's Dish Network after a deadline to settle a carriage deal passed at midnight.  

Earlier on Monday, CBS had warned that Dish subscribers faced a prospect of a blackout of holiday sporting events unless an agreement could be reached by midnight. 

"Dish has dropped CBS and several other local television stations owned by CBS, in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Tampa, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore," CBS said after the deadline passed. "In addition, CBS Sports Network, Pop and the Smithsonian Channel have been dropped."

Dish has a history of contentious carriage negotiations that lead to networks and stations going dark before a new agreement is reached later. "Since 2013, Dish has dropped the signals of 29 different companies, representing nearly 400 television stations, clearly indicating that these tactics are commonplace for them," CBS said. "This particular dispute is yet another example of the company punishing its subscribers instead of negotiating a fair carriage deal that reflects the current marketplace."

CBS also warned of what Dish subscribers could miss in the coming days. "Dish subscribers are in jeopardy of being without CBS over the Thanksgiving holiday, which would mean they would miss CBS Sports’ NFL and SEC football coverage beginning Thursday, Nov. 23, with the Thanksgiving Day game featuring the Los Angeles Chargers taking on the Dallas Cowboys, as well as Sunday’s NFL Doubleheader; and SEC Football on Friday and Saturday," it said.

Dish fired back, blaming CBS for the blackout and stopping its "customers’ access to 28 local channels in 18 markets across 26 states." Dish also said that as negotiations with CBS continued the company would offer free digital over-the-air (OTA) antennas to customers in affected markets so that they could continue to watch CBS’s local broadcast channels at no cost. Dish added that eligible customers could choose to drop the cost of local channels leading to a saving of $10 per month. 

"CBS is attempting to tax Dish customers on programming that's losing viewers, tax Dish customers on programming available for free over the air and tax Dish customers for content available directly from CBS," said Warren Schlichting, Dish executive vp marketing, programming and media sales. "Our customers are clear: they don't want to pay a CBS tax. It's regrettable and unnecessary that CBS is bringing its greed into the homes of millions of families this Thanksgiving."

Dish used the latest showdown to again call for a reform of retransmission consent fees, which broadcasters charge pay TV distributors.

"CBS is using its mix of local and national channels against viewers, abusing outdated laws to try to force consumers to pay more. This greedy attempt to extort more money from our customers is one of the main reasons we — and our industry — are asking Congress to restore balance in the broadcaster-pay TV equation," said Jeff Blum, Dish's senior vp and deputy general counsel. "We are asking lawmakers to reform outdated TV laws to give our customers the best viewing experience at an affordable price — without the threat of broadcaster blackouts."

Concluded Blum: "We continue to urge the FCC and Congress to update a system that emboldens broadcasters to black out consumers."