Dish could lose 164 local stations in 120 markets next week due to a carriage dispute with their owner, Nexstar Media Group.
The stations have posted a notice at their web sites alerting Dish subscribers that they could lose their signals on Wednesday, December 2.
“(The station) and DISH have a contract that allows them to carry our programming to you. That contract has expired and DISH removed WTTA from your schedule,” the notice reads, although the headline says the station could be removed on December 2. “(The station) presented a proposal for fair value, based on the importance and value our programming brings to our viewers. Despite our tireless efforts, DISH has refused our fair offer and is making negotiations very difficult. You’ve might have seen them do this before. They will tell you it’s for your benefit, but don’t believe it. Our offer is fair. And now they hold you the subscriber hostage. It’s not right.”
Dish, which is now engaged in several other carriage disputes that have led to channel blackouts, issued a press statement today alleging Nexstar is asking for “unreasonable rate increases while intentionally using millions of Americans as pawns in their negotiations. This action by Nexstar would result in consumers being blacked out from the highest number of local broadcast stations in the nation’s TV history.”
The Dish statement adds: “In recent years, Nexstar went on a $12 billion local broadcast station buying spree to become the largest and most powerful station owner in the country. Now that Nexstar is the biggest in the industry, it is trying to strong-arm companies like DISH to pay outrageous rates and force unprecedented increases onto customers. The broadcaster continues to threaten to blackout its stations from DISH customers to gain negotiation leverage in an effort to line its wallet with viewers’ hard-earned money — a tactic it used last year against DirecTV and AT&T U-verse.”
Dish also says Nexstar wants it to carry WGN America as part of the deal.
“Nexstar is also forcing DISH to carry WGN America as part of this deal, a channel that has experienced declining viewership in recent years. Nexstar acquired this channel when it bought Tribune last year. Now, the broadcast owner is looking to DISH customers to pay back this investment. Nexstar is demanding a significant payment for this low-rated channel that airs syndicated reruns found on other DISH stations and features a news program that can be accessed for free online,” the Dish statement says.
Nexstar has local stations in such large markets as Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Denver. The broadcaster’s web site says its local stations reach 115 markets representing 63 percent of all U.S. TV households. To see a list of the Nexstar stations, click here.
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— Phillip Swann