Fox-Dish Network battle intensifies

Source: No weekend talks between parties are scheduled

NEW YORK -- The war of words between News Corp./Fox and Dish Network over stalled carriage fee talks escalated Friday after the former yanked FX, the National Geographic Channel and 19 regional sports networks from Dish after a midnight deadline that arrived without a new carriage deal.

"Dish Network wrote another chapter in its legendary history of irrational negotiations with television programmers by allowing the expiration of its carriage agreement," Fox Cable Networks said in a statement Friday afternoon, which also reminded people that on Oct. 31, the satellite operator's agreement for Fox TV stations expires.

"We've been attempting to negotiate with Dish for almost six months," said Mike Hopkins, president, Fox networks affiliate sales and marketing. "We have made fair and reasonable proposals that are consistent with our agreements with hundreds of other cable and satellite companies with which Dish competes, and they have yet to engage in a constructive dialogue."

A source said there were no talks between the two sides scheduled for the weekend.

Dish subscribers may miss such shows as FX's "Sons of Anarchy" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," as well as National Geographic Channel's "The Dog Whisperer" and "Locked Up Abroad."

Hopkins also took issue with a statement from Dish earlier in the day.

"Their suggestion that we're seeking a 50% increase in programming fees is flatly wrong," he said. "It's completely disingenuous for Dish -- a company that is on pace to extract more than $10 billion dollars in revenue and $3 billion in profits from its subscribers -- to suggest that we are bullying their customers."

"Fox is demanding a new contract with an unprecedented rate increase of more than 50%," Dish had said early Friday. "Dish Network is not going to allow Fox or any programmer to bully our customers into paying such an unconscionable price increase," said Dave Shull, senior vp of programming for Dish.

The News Corp./Fox release also listed past Dish carriage disputes that led to programming interruptions, such as a 2004 showdown with Viacom, a 2005 dispute with Outdoor Life Network and the 2006 decision to stop carrying Lifetime Networks.

"And Dish has refused to carry the Yes Network, the television home of the New York Yankees," the company said.

A Dish spokeswoman said in response to Fox's criticism that Dish has a history of "fighting against outrageous double-digit rate increases to protect our customers from onerous price increases and maintain our position as the low cost leader."

Meanwhile, "programmers like Fox have consistently sought to shake down pay-TV providers," she added.