Dish Network under fire by Morgan Murphy in TV retrans battle with Sinclair

A Wisconsin TV station owner is taking aim at Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) in the satellite TV provider's ongoing retransmission battle with Sinclair Broadcast Group, arguing that Dish Network is using the same negotiating tactics that it is complaining about Sinclair using.

The Wisconsin TV station, Morgan Murphy Media, explained in an FCC filing that its retransmission contract with Dish was set to expire on July 16. Morgan Murphy said it negotiated with Dish on a new contract, and the companies managed to agree to an extension to the contract to Aug. 13. Morgan Murphy said that it offered an additional extension beyond that date with "true up" rates that would be retroactive, but the company said that Dish "declined to extend the agreement unless Morgan Murphy would offer a substantial and unilateral reduction in its proposed rates. Morgan Murphy offered to continue negotiations but Dish took the position that it had reached its "bottom line" and declined to respond to Morgan Murphy's last offer."

As a result, Morgan Murphy said, the company's five TV stations across Wisconsin have not been available on Dish's service since Aug. 13.

Importantly, Morgan Murphy said that Dish's negotiation tactics, including the "true up" offer, are the same ones that it has accused Sinclair of using. Sinclair's own retransmission contract with Dish recently expired, and the two companies are currently in negotiations for a new contract. Dish is working to avoid a blackout of more than 100 Sinclair TV stations on its satellite-based TV service. Dish filed a lengthy complaint with the FCC over Sinclair's retransmission negotiations, noting that Sinclair did not agree to a "true up" offer, but this weekend asked the FCC to hold off on acting on the complaint while Dish and Sinclair continue their negotiations.

Dish hasn't yet replied to Morgan Murphy's FCC filing using the FCC's commenting system.

The dust-up among Dish, the Wisconsin TV station owner and Sinclair focuses on the retransmission fees that satellite TV providers and other pay-TV operators pay to local TV station broadcasters for permission to retransmit their signals to pay-TV subscribers. These retransmission consent fees have been at the center of a number of blackouts, where TV stations are no longer available to pay-TV customers.

The FCC may act on the issue sometime later this year.

For more:
- see this Morgan Murphy FCC filing
- see this TVNewsCheck article

Related articles:
Dish Network, DirecTV take retransmission fight public, urge customers to stick around
Dish averts mega-blackout, continues retransmission negotiations with Sinclair
FCC's Wheeler thrills pay-TV operators, proposes removal of exclusivity rules from retrans negotiations
Moonves: CBS to make $2B per year in retrans fees and reverse compensation by 2020