Q. Why is HBO still not on Dish? Will they ever make a deal. It’s been a year now and I’m getting crazy about it with Game of Thrones on. What is up?! — Eric, Denver.
Eric, it’s actually been slightly more than six months since Dish and HBO couldn’t reach a new carriage agreement. And when the old pact expired on November 1, HBO pulled both HBO and Cinemax from Dish and the Dish-owned live streaming service, Sling TV.
The dispute has driven some Dish and Sling subscribers up the wall, particularly with the final episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones coming up this Sunday.
When the blackout began, I predicted it might take months to resolve. And, Eric, I’m afraid to tell you that if it doesn’t end this week with GOT still on, it may take several more months.
1. AT&T, which last 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.
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 Dish and Sling subscribers have undoubtedly fled, it’s more likely that they have simply signed 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.
With Game of Thrones wrapping up this Sunday, it’s possible that the final episode will spark a new round of talks this week. But I wouldn’t bet too much on it.
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— Phillip Swann
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