Dish and Hearst dig in for what looks like protracted retrans battle

Dish Network satellite dishes on rooftop
The five-day-old blackout on Dish Network of 33 Hearst TV network affiliates in 26 markets might not be ending soon.

The five-day-old blackout on Dish Network of 33 Hearst TV network affiliates in 26 markets might not be ending soon.

Hearst released a statement to its viewers Tuesday, indicating the two sides aren’t even at the bargaining table for a new broadcast retransmission licensing deal. 

“Our negotiating team has been ready and available around-the-clock to engage in substantive negotiations with Dish Network," Hearst said on its station websites. (Hat tip to Multichannel News for being the first to notice this.)

RELATED: Dish gets blacked out by Hearst in 26 markets

Dish reps didn’t immediately respond to FierceCable’s inquiry for its own status update. 

Last week, Warren Schlichting, Dish executive VP of programming, said in a statement, “While we are listening to customers and working on their behalf to keep their TV bills manageable, Hearst is again turning its back on its public interest obligations and using innocent consumers as bargaining chips.”

Both Dish and Hearst have already been in several retrans-related skirmishes in 2017, and the year isn’t even 70 days old.

Hearst, for example, turned the lights out on DirecTV for several days in January. It’s also Hearst’s second blackout on Dish in the last three years, with the two companies locking horns in the spring of 2014 as well.

For its part, Dish has already had to resolve blackouts with Gray Television and Bonten Media. 

As expected, lobbying groups for both sides are getting rhetorically involved. 

“In 2017, DISH has forced more programming disruptions than any other pay TV service, based on reports from SNL Kagan,” said Casey Mohan of the NAB-backed TVFreedom.org. “In fact, over the last three months, DISH has gone only two weeks without a disruption. And since January 2015, DISH has been involved in a whopping 58% of all retransmission consent impasses.”

Meanwhile, Trent Duffy of the pay-TV partisan American TV Alliance (ATVA) said, “Earlier this year Hearst blacked out college football bowl games and network premieres. Now they are targeting college basketball’s March Madness and season finales. Repeat offenders like Hearst Television prove there’s nothing to stop broadcasters from hitting consumers on the nose with more blackouts and higher fees.” 

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