Q. Dish has dropped so many channels that I think they have broken their agreement when I signed the two-year agreement. They don’t have many of the channels that they said they would have when I signed up, like the NFL Network. What is your opinion? Can I just unsubscribe now and go to DIRECTV? — Ben, Port Republic, Maryland.
Ben, I feel your pain. Dish is now without HBO, the NFL Network, 21 Fox regional sports channels (owned by Sinclair), Altitude Sports, 60 Scripps-owned local TV stations, and 14 Apollo Global-owned local stations due to six separate fee fights.
When you made a two-year commitment to Dish, perhaps you might have hesitated if you had known that some of your favorite channels would be pulled from the satcaster’s lineup, even if temporarily.
But that doesn’t mean you can break your two-year contract. Before I explain, a little background on the two-year agreement that many pay TV providers require, including Dish and DIRECTV.
Dish, like other companies, both in and outside the TV business, use two-year agreements to keep customers from service-hopping. Without them, Dish’s subscribers might switch to DIRECTV or their local cable provider every time something bad happens, such as a channel blackout during a programmer fee fight or an increase in one’s bill.
To encourage consumers to sign the two-year deal, Dish offers such incentives as two-year price locks, meaning their prices won’t change during the entire 24-month period. In contrast, DIRECTV nearly doubles prices in the second year of the two-year agreement. (DIRECTV provides free NFL Sunday Ticket, and premium channels, as incentives to sign for two years rather than price guarantees.)
Many subscribers agree to the two-year deals because the offers seem irresistible.
But as you now understand, Ben, the two-year commitment forces you to stay with Dish if the company does something you don’t like. That is, unless you want to pay the cancellation fee, which is $20 a month for every month left in the two-year agreement.
This is why I strongly advocate that consumers refrain from signing two-year deals.
But what if Dish stops carrying channels it said it would carry when you signed that agreement, you ask? Isn’t Dish in violation of the agreement?
No. The terms of the two-year pact expressly state that all programming is subject to change:
“All packages, programming, features, and functionality and all prices and fees not included in price lock are subject to change without notice,” Dish says.
Sorry, Ben, you will have to ride it out unless you’re okay with paying the cancellation fee. There’s no loophole in the two-year agreement.
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— Phillip Swann