Dish uses Senate hearings to blast broadcasters over blackouts

During a Senate hearing Thursday aimed at questioning pay-TV operators about customer service, Dish Network used the occasion to take another shot at broadcasters and blackouts caused by retransmission disputes.

Kathleen Schneider, senior vice president of operations at Dish, was on hand to represent the company along with representatives from Comcast, Charter, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV. In prepared remarks, Schneider called out the increasing amounts of money broadcasters demand for retransmission consent, adding that retransmission fees have risen 22,500 percent between 2005 and 2015.

"If the price of other consumer goods rose that fast, consumers would be priced out of almost everything – a dozen eggs would be nearly $350, a large coffee would be over $400 and a gallon of milk would be over $700," said Schneider in her testimony.

Schneider said that "broadcasters' disproportionate leverage" has led a rise in blackouts, from 12 blackouts in 2010 to more than 180 blackouts in 2015.

"Blackouts inflict real injury on distributors, while barely leaving a mark on the broadcasters. Of course, broadcasters know this," Schneider said, adding that calls to Dish customer service centers during blackouts can double or triple.

In addition to going in on broadcasters, Dish's Schneider also called out programmers for bundling practices that force distributors to accept channels they don't want in order to get the channels their customer do want.

"The practices detailed above collectively prevent DISH from creating the type of tailored packages that best meet our customers' needs and budgets and, in general, cause an enormous amount of customer pain," Schneider said.

Dish's comments on retransmission consent came as the satellite provider is currently involved with a blackout and bitter retransmission dispute with Tribune Broadcasting. While Dish wages its personal battles, the operator is also teaming with the ACA and fellow pay-TV providers like Mediacom to petition the FCC to make changes to the commission's rules governing good faith retransmission negotiations.

For more:
- see this Dish testimony

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