NBCU hints at possible Dish blackout as renewal talks stall

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

The announcement comes 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.

The two sides have reportedly been clashing on issues including broadcast retransmission fees for several weeks. 

"NBCUniversal has the most-watched portfolio in the U.S. and on Dish systems, including the No. 1 broadcast network, the No. 1 cable entertainment network, and NBCUniversal is No. 1 in news and late-night television," NBCU said in a statement.

"NBCUniversal is asking Dish to pay fair market value for the networks, similar to the agreements in place with other distributors," Comcast's entertainment arm says on a website that urges the No. 2 satellite company's subscribers to lobby for a deal," the programming conglomerate added. "We are disappointed that Dish is about to deny its customers the most-watched network portfolio on TV."

Dish reps didn't immediately respond to FierceCable's inquiry for comment. 

Dish Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen did, however, comment on the broader issue of broadcast retransmission during the satellite company's fourth quarter earnings call last month, publicly asking the FCC to intervene with new regulation.

Negotiations between pay-TV operators and broadcasters are "so one-sided, particularly to the network broadcaster," Ergen said. The FCC's decision on whether or not to intervene "will have more impact on consumers than new set-top rules."

For more:
- read this Los Angeles Times story
- read this Deadline Hollywood story

Related articles:
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Dish reaches agreement with News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting, avoids blackout
Ergen: Retrans rules bigger threat to consumers than new set-top rules