Tribune Media Stations, WGN America Go Dark on Dish Network
"Dish refuses to reach an agreement based on fair-market value," says the station group, while the pay TV giant says "Tribune is seeking a significant rate increase despite decreasing viewership."
Tribune Media's 42 owned or operated TV stations and the WGN America cable network went dark in pay TV giant Dish Network's homes at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday amid a carriage dispute.
About 5 million Dish subscribers in 33 markets across 34 states and the District of Columbia lost access to their local Tribune stations, while roughly 7 million Dish subscribers nationwide lost the ability to watch WGN America, whose hit shows include Underground and Outsiders.
"We want to reach an agreement, just as we have with every one of our other cable, satellite and telco distributors, but Dish refuses to reach an agreement based on fair-market value," said a Tribune Media representative. "We want to keep servicing our local communities and we have repeatedly offered Dish a lengthy extension to continue negotiations — unfortunately, Dish rejected these offers."
Dish, led by chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen, has had various carriage dispute over the years, which Tribune highlighted. "Dish is notorious for forcing station groups and cable nets off of its distribution system," it said. "In the past three years alone, Dish has done so 12 different times."
Dish shot back in its own statement. “Tribune is demanding an unreasonable rate increase for channels that are available for free over the air,” said Dish executive vp programming Warren Schlichting. “Actions like Tribune’s are what drive price increases and feed customer frustration for our industry." The company offered its subscribers a free antenna so they can continue to receive Tribune channels free over the air, along with dozens of other broadcast channels.
“By attempting to force bundle its cable channel with its local broadcast stations, Tribune is using local viewers as leverage to raise rates for WGN America — a channel that is in decline,” added Schlichting. “Tribune is seeking a significant rate increase despite decreasing viewership and recently losing access to [Chicago] Cubs baseball.”
Tribune stations have focused on local news, weather, sports and traffic. In addition, subscribers in Tribune's CBS markets were not able to watch the network's broadcast of Sunday night's Tony Awards, while subscribers in Tribune's NBC markets were not able to see Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Subscribers in the company's ABC markets will lose access to Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday.
In terms of baseball coverage, Dish subscribers in New York won't be able to watch New York Mets and New York Yankees games on WPIX-TV, and subscribers in Chicago will not be able to see Chicago White Sox and Cubs games on WGN-TV.