The fee fight between Hearst Television and Dish enters its 15th day today with both companies still blaming the other for the dispute which has blacked out 33 local stations in Dish’s lineup.
The satcaster yesterday issued a statement saying that Hearst has refused to agree to the same carriage terms it gave DIRECTV in January..
“Hearst blacked out millions of DIRECTV customers in January, and eventually the two sides reached an agreement,” Dish said. “Before Hearst blacked out Dish customers two weeks ago, we said that we would agree to the same terms as DIRECTV. That offer remains on the table. Hearst should do the right thing for consumers by agreeing to the same terms as its deal with DIRECTV and restoring its stations to the Dish lineup today. Dish is committed to reaching a fair agreement with Hearst to end this blackout.”
But Hearst swiftly responded by saying it would launch an advertising campaign to attack what it calls Dish’s “false claims,” including a charge that Hearst at one time would not negotiate. The campaign would include a “shot clock” at Hearst web sites that would remind people of the length of the dispute.
“As for Dish’s repeated and false claims of financial offers, Dish is clearly misguiding its customers,” Hearst Television President Jordan Wertlieb said in a press release. “As is customary for companies seeking to protect disclosure of their confidential information to competitors, we cannot disclose the terms of our DIRECTV deal to Dish. The question is, why is Dish not offering to Hearst what Dish has surely agreed to pay to other broadcasters?
“We have never left the negotiating table,” Wertlieb added. “We remain, as always, ready to continue serious negotiations.”
While the statements may or may not be accurate, they are small comfort to the Dish viewers who have been unable to watch their favorite local channels for more than two weeks.
With college basketball’s March Madness underway this week, the blackout is particularly hard felt now in markets where Hearst owns the local CBS affiliate: Des Moines and Louisville.
— Phillip Swann