Dish, and its live streaming service, Sling TV, last night lost both HBO and Cinemax after Dish could not reach a new carriage agreement with the channels’ new owner, AT&T. The companies are fighting over how much Dish and Sling should pay to carry the channels.
The satellite TV service said it was the first time that HBO had been blacked out from a pay TV provider in the premium network’s 40-year history. Dish blamed this year’s merger between AT&T and Time Warner, HBO’s previous owner, which the satcaster said has given AT&T too much power.
Dish opposed the merger in testimony before Congress. The Justice Department also opposed the deal, but lost its lawsuit to block it. The DOJ is appealing that ruling.
“Plain and simple, the merger created for AT&T immense power over consumers,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish’s senior vice president of programming. “It seems AT&T is implementing a new strategy to shut off its recently acquired content from other distributors. This may be the first of many HBO blackouts for consumers across the country. AT&T no longer has incentive to come to an agreement on behalf of consumer choice; instead, it’s been given the power to grab more money or steal away customers.”
In a statement, HBO blamed Dish for being “extremely difficult” in contract negotiations. Dish, which has provided satellite TV service since the mid-1990s, has earned a reputation of being particularly tough in carriage talks, a stance that has sometimes led to programming blackouts.
“During our forty plus years of operation, HBO has always been able to reach agreement with our valued distributors and our services have never been taken down or made unavailable to subscribers due to an inability to conclude a deal. Unfortunately, DISH is making it extremely difficult, responding to our good faith attempts with unreasonable terms. Past behavior shows that removing services from their customers is becoming all too common a negotiating tactic for them. We hope the situation with DISH changes soon but, in the meantime, our valued customers should take advantage of the other ways to access an HBO subscription so they can continue to enjoy our acclaimed programming.”
— Phillip Swann