Dish is now without at least 236 channels due to eight different carriage battles that span from last Wednesday to 25 months ago. The blacked-out channels include 212 local network affiliates, and 24 premium or regional sports networks.
The oldest fight dates back to November 2018 when Dish, and its live streaming service, Sling TV, lost both HBO and Cinemax after Dish could not reach a new carriage agreement with the channels’ owner, AT&T. (There has been no indication since that the parties will ever settle.) The most recent fee fight started last Wednesday when Dish lost 164 Nexstar-owned local channels (and WGN America) when the companies failed to reach a new deal.
In most of the battles, if not all, money is the root of disagreement. Dish has contended the other side is asking for an unreasonable increase in fees while the broadcaster/programmer usually counters that it’s no more than what others have paid.
Dish is right that rival pay TV operators have engaged in more carriage battles in the last few years as they look to reduce expenses to offset shrinking subscriber revenues triggered by cord cutting. In fact, AT&T’s TV services, including DIRECTV, just this week lost 60 Tegna-owned local channels in a rate clash.
But there’s no question that Dish is the king of the fee fight. In addition to the eight ongoing battles, Dish this year lost the NFL Network, the RedZone Channel and Scripps’ local channels before finally settling. Plus, two other broadcasting groups, Lilly and Apollo Global Management/Cox Media, are now threatening to remove a combined 28 local stations from Dish due to two more carriage disagreements. (The Apollo/Cox threat should not be confused with 14 Apollo/Cox stations that have already been removed from Dish in a separate fight.)
Dish maintains that the hardline stance it takes in negotiations enables it to keep subscriber fees down. And the satellite TV service does offer lower prices than many pay TV operators, including longtime rival, DIRECTV. For instance, Dish’s base plan, called America’s Top 120, features 190 channels and is available for $59.99 a month for two years. DIRECTV’s base plan, called Entertainment, has 160 channels and is also available for $64.99. But that’s only for the first year. Unlike Dish, which offers the $59.99 a month rate for two years guaranteed, DIRECTV’s base price goes to at least $97 a month in year two.
But Dish’s subscribers often take to this site, and others, to express their frustration with the constant interruption (or elimination) of favorite channels. Many say they would cancel Dish if they were not in a two-year contract that includes an early termination penalty.
Here is a rundown of the 236 channels that are now missing on Dish due to carriage fights:
Nexstar — 165 (164 local channels and WGN America)
Mission Broadcasting — 28 local channels
Sinclair-owned Regional Sports Channels — 21
Apollo/Cox — 14 local channels
Sunbeam Broadcasting — 3 local channels
Circle City Broadcasting — 2 local channels
HBO and Cinemax — 2 premium channels
Altitude Sports — 1 regional sports channel
Update: Dish also lost NBC Sports Chicago 13 months ago so the number is 237.
Update #2: Dish has settled its fights with Cox and Nexstar, bringing back 179 channels. However, Dish is involved in a new carriage battle with Capital Broadcasting, losing three more local channels. So as of January 8, 2021, Dish is now missing 61 channels due to fee fights.
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— Phillip Swann