CBS begins messaging Dish viewers about pending retrans battle

With the current retrans deal between the broadcast network and the satellite operator set to expire Nov. 20, CBS has already gone into propaganda mode, warning Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) subscribers of a possible blackout.

"Attention, Dish customers! You could soon lose CBS," warn CBS commercials, which began running in some affected markets Friday. The negotiation centers on 14 CBS-owned stations, seven CW stations, two My Network TV outlets and three independent stations.

"Only CBS can force a blackout of its channels," read a Dish response, issued Friday. "Dish is actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires and has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers. We are unsure why CBS decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process at a point when there is time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal."

During his third-quarter conference call with investors Nov. 5, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen spent most of his soapbox time messaging Dish's ongoing carriage battle with Turner Networks. He brutally assessed the Atlanta-based programming environment in the current multichannel marketplace.

Ergen was slightly more conciliatory when asked about CBS, indicating he was optimistic about a deal getting carved out. But he did say the network's new OTT service would factor significantly into the negotiations.

"It's interesting because one of the dynamics there is, CBS channels are now available over-the-top," Ergen told investors. "So there's an alternative for customers. So on the one hand, that's an interesting business plan. On the other hand, it makes that product less interesting for MVPDs because customers have a choice to get it somewhere else, and not everybody watches that channel, right?"

Speaking at an investor event a week later, Moonves responded, noting the loss of CBS' NFL coverage might be a problem for Dish subscribers: "As I said to Charlie Ergen, 'Your people won't be very happy with the Denver Broncos not on the air Sunday."

For more:
- read this Los Angeles Times story
- read this Variety story

Related links:
Moonves responds to Ergen: 'You're going to miss those Broncos games'
Ergen says streaming makes CBS 'less interesting to MVPDs' as network readies OTT news service
CBS, Moonves lose nerve on tough OTT position with launch of All Access
Moonves to stations: Get more retrans money out of pay-TV operators or else