Dish ends blackout with NFL Network with multi-year carriage deal

Dish Network has come to terms with the NFL for continued coverage of the NFL Network and RedZone.

Whacking a mole in its ongoing saga of content licensing impasses, Dish Network announced that it has reached a multi-year carriage agreement for NFL Network and RedZone. 

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. 

Dish remains in a protracted broadcast retransmission impasse with Tribune Media that has blacked out 42 network affiliates in 33 markets for close to a month. And it has an emerging retrans impasse with Sunbeam that threatens to blackout NBC and CW affiliates in Boston and a Fox affiliate in Miami.

With Dish losing 281,000 customers in the second quarter, Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen conceded that the carriage disputes are taking a toll on the subscriber base.

The fact that the NFL deal got done, however, isn’t surprising. During Dish’s second quarter earnings call on July 21, Ergen described the NFL talks as productive and focused on strategic issues rather than fees.  

Punctuated by the loss of 281,000 customers in the second quarter, analysts say Dish’s steady stream of retrans battles and carriage wars has resulted in the loss of 7.5 percent of its subscriber base in just one year.

"Leaving aside the merits of either side's arguments about right and wrong, what is clear is that Dish's steady stream of programming disputes are having an increasingly obvious impact on the subscriber metrics of the core satellite business," MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said in an investor memo, shortly after Dish reported its Q2 earnings. 

"Granted, the second quarter is always the year's worst," he added. "But the loss is much worse than last year's 151,000, and it leaves their satellite TV subscriber base a shocking 7.5 percent smaller than it was a year ago. In a business that is ostensibly all about the operating leverage of the fixed-cost satellite TV platform whose costs are spread across a growing base of users, that's an awkward place to start a conversation."

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