Dish in retransmission blackout with Sagamore Hill Broadcasting

Seven stations are set to go dark on Dish as the satellite TV operator girds for its latest retransmission battle. (Pixabay)

UPDATED: This story was updated to correct the timing of the blackout and include comment from Dish.

Stations in 11 markets owned by Augusta, Georgia-based Sagamore Hill Broadcasting have gone dark on Dish Network, with the two sides unable to reach a new broadcast retransmission licensing deal. 

The stations include ABC affiliate WNCF-TV in Montgomery, Alabama; Fox affiliate KFJX-TV in Joplin, Missouri; and CBS affiliate KZTV in Corpus Christi, Texas. 

“FOX 14’s current agreement with Dish Network has expired,” a message on the KFJX website read yesterday, just before the blackout started at 6 p.m. EST. “Unfortunately, FOX 14 can no longer be watched on its system. We would like to be on the system. However, Dish has refused to reach an agreement. We will continue to pursue an agreement. But so far, our efforts have not been successful. FOX 14 is committed to reaching a fair agreement with Dish Network, as we have with every other cable and satellite provider. This affects customers of Dish Network only. You will still be able to watch FOX 14 via an antenna and through other providers.”

RELATED: Sling TV chief says OTA antennas are the cure to retransmission blues

“With Dish willing to grant an extension and a retroactive true-up on rates, SagamoreHill had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channels up,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish senior VP of programming said in a statement. “Instead, SagamoreHill chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent consumers as bargaining chips.”

Last week at Fierce's Pay TV Show in Denver, Warren Schlichting, group president of Sling TV, presented a simple solution to the problem of rising retransmission fees: Don’t pay them and incorporate free OTA signals instead.

Schlichting said retransmission fees totaled $215 million in 2006 and rose to $7.7 billion by 2016. By 2017, he said they totaled $10.93 billion, indicative of what he called “incredibly aggressive retrans fee hikes.”

At the same time, the number of pay TV subscribers is declining, so Schlichting said lower demand should mean lower prices, but it doesn’t. And that results in providers having to raise prices.

“With every price increase we push more subscribers away,” Schlichting said.