Dish sues NBCU over customer warnings, seeks binding arbitration

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) says it's suing NBCUniversal after the programmer ran commercials warning viewers that a retrans/carriage impasse with the satellite could result in a loss of access to NBCU channels.

"NBC's public statements against Dish over the past 24 hours are in violation of the contract between the two companies. Today, Dish filed a breach of contract lawsuit against NBC to address those violations."

Dish said it will seek binding arbitration on the matter.

"Under the conditions imposed by the FCC and Department of Justice in approving the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger, NBC is forbidden from blacking out its networks if a pay-TV provider chooses, in its sole discretion, to exercise its right for binding arbitration," Dish added. "Regulators implemented these conditions to prevent Comcast and NBC from harming consumers and competition."

NBCU released the following statement: "Should Dish proceed with arbitration we will of course participate in the process, and look forward to receiving the fair market value for our portfolio of networks."

NBCUniversal could potentially pull its broadcast stations and cable channels off Dish if a broad-reaching retrans and carriage renewal agreement can't be worked out by Sunday.

The conglomerate's warnings to viewers came as a bit of a surprise to the media industry, which had been fixated on Dish's ongoing carriage renewal talks with Viacom.

The NBCU domain encompasses its 26 owned-and-operated stations in major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as 16 Spanish-language Telemundo stations and cable networks including USA, Syfy, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC.

For more:
- read this Dish press release

Related articles:
NBCU hints at possible Dish blackout as renewal talks stall
Univision walks back ugly blackout, restores channels on U-verse until Wednesday
Dish reaches agreement with News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting, avoids blackout