Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) has gone dark on 42 Tribune stations in 33 markets, amid the satellite TV operators latest — and largest — broadcast retransmission licensing dispute.
The blackout impacts affiliate stations for all major broadcast networks.
"Tribune is demanding an unreasonable rate increase for channels that are available for free over the air," said Warren Schlichting, Dish executive VP of Programming, in a statement. "Actions like Tribune's are what drive price increases and feed customer frustration for our industry. With Dish's free antenna, customers will continue to receive Tribune channels for free over the air, along with dozens of other broadcast channels not normally available to pay-TV customers."
Dish and Schlichting accused Tribune of convoluting the retransmission talks by bringing the issue of cable carriage for Tribune's WGN America.
"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," Schlichting added. "Tribune is seeking a significant rate increase despite decreasing viewership and recently losing access to Cubs baseball."
Also in a statement, Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said, "We've offered the same fair market rates that Dish already pays other local station groups with ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliates with top-rated local news, and other similarly valued cable networks. At the same time, we're willing to accept the same rates for our local stations and WGN America that others are currently paying us. Dish has refused our offer."
Both Dish and the American Television Alliance framed the blackout as a call to action for the FCC to reform broadcast retransmission regulation.
"Tribune Broadcasting is holding the NBA Finals, the Tony Awards, the Stanley Cup Final and scores of other popular programs for ransom in a brazen attempt to get consumers to pay more money for channels that are available for free over the air," said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy.
"Tribune Broadcasting Company is depriving hundreds of thousands of families of some of the biggest and most anticipated events of the year," Duffy added. "Musical fans will miss Broadway's biggest night; hockey fans will be in the dark; and kids and NBA fans across America won't be able to watch LeBron James play Steph Curry."
- read this Dish press release
- read this ATVA press release
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