Q. I can’t be angrier that I no longer have my ABC channel in Baltimore. I have Dish. Do you know when these greedy companies will get over themselves and make a deal so I can get my station back?! — Natalie, Baltimore.
Natalie, as you know, Dish on Saturday night lost approximately 60 local network affiliates in 42 markets due to a fee fight with their owner, Scripps. The markets affected include New York, Milwaukee, Phoenix, San Diego, Corpus Christi, Texas, and Baltimore where your local ABC affiliate, WMAR-TV, is located. You can see a complete list of the Scripps stations here.
Dish is notorious for playing hard ball in carriage negotiations so normally I would say you might need to wait a few weeks, or even a few months, before it reaches a deal with Scripps. However, despite the name-calling that’s going on between the two companies, there are two reasons for hope that this dispute will end sooner than later.
1. They were likely close to an agreement when the blackout began.
The original agreement was scheduled to expire on Friday night (July 24), but Dish and Scripps agreed then to extend the deadline until Saturday night. The 24-hour extension usually portends that the companies are close to resolving their differences, and believe that an extra day will make the difference. That didn’t get a deal done in this case, of course, but they wouldn’t have agreed to the extension if they weren’t close. And if they were close on Friday, that would suggest it shouldn’t take much to end their disagreement.
2. The NBA starts on Thursday.
Pro basketball returns to the court on Thursday night and ABC will offer Sunday broadcasts starting August 2. Scripps owns 17 ABC affiliates, including ones in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Waco, Tulsa and Tampa, among others. With interest in live sports never higher thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, Dish would incur the wrath of dozens of thousands of fans in those ABC markets. That should spur the satcaster to be more aggressive than normal in negotiations.
So there is cause for optimism that Dish and Scripps will end this scrap sometime this week. The one reason for pessimism is Dish, or to be more specific, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen whose penchant for playing poker at the negotiating table is legendary. Despite the aforementioned reasons for seeking a quick resolution, Ergen and Dish could still extend the talks past what might seem necessary to try to squeeze an extra penny or two in savings. (The pay TV provider pays the programmer to carry its signals.)
Natalie, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann