Continuing to push back on what it says are unreasonable price increases for broadcast retransmission licensing, Dish Network has entered into two more impasses with small station owners.
In Fort Myers, Florida, Montclair Communications, operator of ABC affiliate WZVN-TV, has informed Dish viewers of its channel that it's operating on the satellite TV service on a temporary contract extension through Feb. 7, and that it will go dark on Dish after that if a new deal isn’t made.
“Montclair Communications is a small, family business and ABC7 is its only operation,” Montclair said in a statement pitting David against Goliath. “Dish is a media conglomerate headquartered in Colorado with over $15 billion in annual revenue and $1.4 billion in net income, yet it has for years paid Montclair rates that are substantially below market value. We cannot allow Dish to use its size to force Montclair into an unfair deal.”
Meanwhile, in Phoenix, Londen Media independent station KAZT-TV has been out on Dish since Feb. 3.
"KAZT-TV did not respond to Dish's multiple attempts to negotiate continued carriage and effectively removed its station by not giving its consent for Dish to continue delivering the channel. We are currently working with KAZT-TV to restore the channel to Dish customers,” Dish said in a statement.
Late last month, Lockwood Broadcasting blacked out stations on Dish including ABC affiliate KAKE-TV in Wichita, Kansas; CW affiliate WHDF-TV in Florence, Alabama; CW station WCWG-TV in Lexington, North Carolina; and NBC affiliate KTEN-TV in Ada, Oklahoma.
“Lockwood’s decision to cut ties with Dish customers is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts,” said Jeff Blum, Dish senior VP and deputy general counsel. “Broadcasters like Lockwood use their in-market monopoly power to put profits ahead of the public interests they are supposed to serve.”
According to research company SNL Kagan, total retrans revenue reached $9.3 billion in 2017, up from $7.9 billion in 2016. The firm said retrans is expected to generate $12.8 billion for broadcasters by 2023 at the current growth rate.
As Dish touts these numbers in blackout-related statements, a question emerges: How much are these sizable rate increases really being driven by small broadcasters like Lockwood, Londen and Montclair?