Dish vs. Mission Broadcasting: Is There Anything New?

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Q. I sent you an e-mail awhile back about losing my Fox station on Dish. That was more than two months ago! Is there anything new in this blackout? Will it ever end? — Clara, Little Rock. 

Clara, I didn’t forget you. Let me update the situation, which, unfortunately, has not really changed.

Dish in January lost around 20 Mission Broadcasting-owned local stations in 18 markets due to a fee fight between the companies. The cities affected include your Little Rock Fox affiliate, the Amarillo, Texas Fox station, the Lubbock, Texas ABC station and the Abilene, Texas NBC station, among others.

Mission claims that it offered Dish an extension in their old pact, but that the satcaster rejected it and pulled its signals. Dish, of course, disputes that by saying Mission pulled the stations after Dish refused to pay what it regards as an excessive carriage fee.

In its latest statement, posted late last month, Mission urges its viewers to switch TV providers so they can continue watching without getting an antenna.

“DISH continues to deny you (our programming), including Out Matched, 9-1-1, The Resident, and Fox 16 Arkansas’s local news,” Mission stated. “You have now lost all the NFC playoff games on FOX as well as The Super Bowl. It’s now been over a month, for which you have paid and not received our programming. DISH has made it clear they are not interested in serving you, their customer. Until DISH changes their attitude, we recommend you explore offers with DIRECTV, any of the local cable operators in your city, or any of the several streaming services that include Fox 16 Arkansas in their channel lineup.”

The satellite TV service responded:

DISH offered to extend the contract so viewers would not be impacted but Mission Broadcasting, Inc. refused this offer. The fact is, only Mission Broadcasting, Inc. can choose to remove their content from DISH customers. We are still fighting to get these channels back,” Dish said.

It’s usually impossible to determine what the truth is in these carriage disputes, and this one is no different. But what is clear is that the companies seem to be far apart. In January, I predicted that this blackout would last for months rather than days, and there’s nothing to suggest that forecast is wrong.

Dish has a history of playing hardball in these negotiations, particularly with a smaller broadcaster like Mission whose audience is relatively small. The satcaster simply doesn’t believe many subscribers will drop their service because of the blackout. And whatever revenue is lost due to defecting customers, it will be made up by not paying carriage fees to Mission during the dispute.

Clara, I wish I could be more hopeful. But as I said before, I think you might need to invest in a TV antenna if you stay with Dish.

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