Dish vs. Apollo: When Will It End?

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Q. We lost our NBC station on Dish last week and we really want it back. Do you know when it will come back? Do you think it will be today? — Shelley, Bradford Woods, Pennsylvania.

Shelley, as you may know, Dish last Wednesday lost 14 Apollo Global Management-owned stations in 10 markets, including your NBC affiliate (WPXI-TV) in the Pittsburgh market. To see a complete list of the 14 stations, click here. 

The stations, which are managed by the Cox Media Group, are claiming that Dish is refusing to pay what other pay TV providers are paying while Dish says it’s offered a higher rate than before. (Note: Pay TV providers have to pay local stations to carry their signals.)

Earlier today, I predicted that Dish’s fee fight with Scripps’ 60 local stations will end relatively soon. But I am not as optimistic about Dish vs. Apollo for two reasons.

1. The companies are engaged in a legal battle.
Dish and Apollo are engaged in a lawsuit over whether Dish’s previous carriage agreement for the 14 stations was prematurely ended when Apollo bought them from Cox Enterprises last year. The satcaster obtained a restraining order preventing Apollo from ending the past agreement, but a federal court last week halted the restraining order, which triggered the current blackout.

The legal skirmish makes this carriage dispute more complicated, and contentious, than usual. And that makes it less likely to end in a quick resolution.

2. Apollo’s TV holdings are relatively small. 
Unlike Scripps, which has 60 stations, Apollo has just 14 stations. That means fewer Dish subscribers will be affected, which places less pressure on the satcaster to settle soon. Dish has a history of playing hardball in carriage disputes and it will be easier to hold out since a relatively small number of customers are demanding the stations’ return.

For those two reasons, Shelley, I could see the Dish-Apollo standoff lasting a month or more.

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— Phillip Swann
@swanniontv

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