It's not quite as dire as the nation's stubbornly high unemployment rate, but TV blackouts caused by retransmission disputes are reportedly at their worst levels since 2000. And, sort of like the economy, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight any time soon.
The latest fight gathering most attention is Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) versus Fox Networks. Already Fox has pulled its cable and regional sports channels off the satellite provider and now it's threatening to pull off its broadcast services as well. Bubbling just below the surface but threatening to erupt at any moment is Fox and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), which follows Cablevision's spring fling with Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), keeper of ABC and ESPN. AT&T (NYSE: T) U-Verse is at war with any number of cable channels, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI) recently resolved its fight with Disney and only Verizon (NYSE: VZ) FiOS is reporting good news via a long-term deal with Disney.
Things don't look good because, in the end, multichannel service providers are wary of subscriber backlash if prices go any higher, said BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield in a Bloomberg story. "There is," Greenfield concluded, "increasing pressure for distributors to push back on rate hikes in a tough economy where the consumer is struggling."
The consumer part of the equation is something that needs attention, added Broadband Reports, which noted "customers continue to be annoyed with price hikes, which are courtesy of the endless dance of death between broadcasters ... and TV operators."
Fox scrapes Dish clean; pulls FX, Nat Geo from satellite lineup
Retrans wars: Ergen snipes at Fox; AT&T warns U-Verse subs
J.D. Power: cable subscribers 'notably less satisfied'