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Dish vs. HBO: Why the Blackout Could Last Months

Q. I am really bummed that Dish lost HBO and Cinemax last night. They are my two favorite channels, by far. I know they are fighting over money, but how long do you think this thing will last? — Morty, Corsicana, Texas.

Morty, as you know, 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.

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Programming blackouts caused by carriage disputes can last anywhere from a few hours or days to several months, depending upon the agendas of the fighting companies. In this case, I’m afraid that it’s more likely to last months than days or hours.

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Why? Two reasons:

1. AT&T, which this year took ownership of HBO and Cinemax following its merger with Time Warner, wants to draw a line with its first high-profile carriage battle after the deal.

The company believes that HBO is an elite channel, one that every pay TV provider must have or risk losing subscribers. Consequently, AT&T wants to set a unprecedented benchmark price for HBO (and Cinemax) that it will try to impose later on other pay TV services.

This is not just another negotiation for AT&T. This is all about laying the groundwork for dramatically increased carriage fees for years to come.

2. Dish has a history of playing tough in carriage negotiations, which has often led to long blackouts. They know what AT&T is up to and they are happy to wait them out if necessary.

While some subscribers could flee, it’s more likely that they will simply sign up for the standalone version of HBO (HBO Now) which costs the same as the Dish/Sling version. With the easy availability of HBO Now, it’s very easy for Dish to say no to AT&T’s demands at this point.

So, Morty, I’m afraid the prognosis is bad right now. But I will keep you and everyone else informed as developments warrant.

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— Phillip Swann

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About TV Answer Man (1289 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

2 Comments on Dish vs. HBO: Why the Blackout Could Last Months

  1. Last month, after 20+ yrs., Netflix decided that they could no longer trust that I am me, and I may not be, to whom they are receiving checks, so they cut me off until I went through the paperwork of developing a password they would approve. Their “concern” cost them my $112 a month. I loved Netflix, but haven’t missed it. Last night, I sat down to watch Real Time w/Bill Mayre and found HBO and DISH are in a financial pissing match. It’s sad, I’ll not have my evening, not to mention my automatic paying, being screwed over because one billionaire can’t get along with another on how badly they want to push the screws into me for the forseeable future. I called DISH, and found that, unless you are signing up, you can’t get a hold of them. Everyone should cut their subscriptions to all these conceited, greed merchants, and put the screws to the stock holders, for once, because they have no problem sticking it to us, constantly. I doubt if anyone will, but I will the first thing on Monday morning, when the local DISH dealer opens his doors. If you want to continue “TAKING IT”, that is up to you. I have had enough. There are zero regulations on anything anymore so the greedy are making a killing. Well, they are no longer going to make a killing off of me. In good conscience, if you can continue to have your pocketbook and your brain picked, by all means – I wish you well. Monopolies now are commonplace, and the media keeps reporting how good the economy is, while politicians now feel they have a legal license to openly broadcast lies and distortions, like our current congressman, who votes with Trump 96% of the time, tells us that his opponent will gouge the citizenry of 32 TRILLION dollars, if she is elected. Do any voters still do the math on this kind of crap? That may be the all-time leader in bullcrap I’ve ever witnessed. I seem to remember that the worlds’ economy is something around 32 trillion dollars. It’s now okay to use car horns, doorbells, fire sirens, police sirens, authentic-sounding gunshots, and equally insane sound effects to sell poisonous products. A current ad ends with a doorbell that is exactly like mine. A full 18 seconds of the recent Lipator tv ad is disclaimer, incoherently warning of rashes, heart attacts, death, and about 14 other things, if you don’t read the directions, carefully. We can do something about all of these things, but they’ve done a zillion study groups that tell them that we won’t. Enjoy your America. Things may change, if your voting really does count, that is?

  2. Thom Koshinsky // November 3, 2018 at 10:28 pm // Reply

    point being, a) cust gets hbo, dish gets zero, a few WILL switch…. b) at the rate of paying separately for each bundle of channels, sooner or later, you’;re back up to sky high wigh smaller selection
    Wen, if ever, can we all get just what we want only from one place at a reasonable cost?
    I recall the “big” dish running into these same issues before they went under

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