Q. I liked your predictions on when Dish would settle with Cox and Nexstar. They came true. So who do you think they will sign a new agreement with next? We are missing our Fox station here now for about four months. Do you think Dish will settle with them soon? — Jenny, Odessa, Texas. 

Jenny, Dish this month settled its carriage disputes with Cox Media/Apollo and Nexstar Broadcasting, but it’s still missing 58 channels due to seven other fee fights, one (HBO/Cinemax) more than two years old. Your local Fox station, KPEJ-TV, is owned by Mission Broadcasting, one of the seven companies still engaged in programming battles with the satcaster.

I did predict here in October that Dish’s first agreement would come with Cox/Apollo, and that prediction turned out to be true. (At the time, Dish was involved in eight different disputes.) Then in December, I said Dish wouldn’t settle with Nexstar and its 164 local TV stations until after DIRECTV settled with Tegna. (The two fee fights began within 24 hours of each other.) And that forecast was correct as well.

So what do I see in my crystal ball now?

First, let’s look at the seven carriage battles still involving Dish:

Mission Broadcasting — 28 local channels
Sinclair-owned Regional Sports Channels — 21
Sunbeam Broadcasting — 3 local channels
Circle City Broadcasting — 2 local channels
HBO and Cinemax — 2 premium channels
Altitude Sports — 1 regional sports channel
NBC Sports Chicago — 1 regional sports channel

Update: Dish Loses 2 North Carolina Stations In Fee Fight

I would be surprised if Dish ever settled with HBO and Cinemax (unless it becomes part of an AT&T sale of DIRECTV), and it may be years (if ever) before it finds common ground with Altitude and NBC Sports Chicago. So let’s throw those four channels aside.

Sunbeam has just three stations and, therefore, little leverage over Dish while Circle City has just two stations, and it’s suing Dish for racial discrimination. For obvious reasons, both disputes are unlikely to end anytime soon.

So that leaves Mission and Sinclair.

Dish has been without the 21 Fox-branded regional sports networks (now owned by Sinclair Broadcasting) since July 2019. The RSNs have the in-market rights to air the games of MLB, NHL and NBA teams so their loss is particularly irksome now for Dish sports fans with the NBA season underway and the NHL dropping puck next month.

But Sinclair wants top dollar for the rights to carry them. (We don’t know the exact amount; that is not publicized.) And Dish is loathe to pay top dollar for anything, particularly regional sports channels that appeal to a niche audience, albeit a passionate niche audience.

In addition, Dish’s contract to carry Sinclair’s 100 plus local TV stations is scheduled to expire in 2021. Again, we don’t know exactly when, but it would seem that the renewal negotiation would be the likely venue to discuss the RSNs as well. (Sinclair has said it would require Dish to carry the regional sports channels in a new deal for the local TV stations.)

So I don’t think a Dish-Sinclair deal is imminent. I would bet it will happen sometime in 2021, but I can’t say when.

That leaves Mission.

The broadcaster owns 28 different local stations, largely in small and mid-size markets. That means the number of Dish subscribers who have been inconvenienced is relatively small. This is probably why Dish has not settled yet. There is little pressure to do so when you’re talking about 28 stations with smaller audiences.

But considering that Dish just settled with Cox Media/Apollo, which manages/owns 32 local stations, there’s some hope here for a Dish-Mission deal. The satcaster may be inclined now to remove Mission from its to-do list as well.

So I will predict that Dish’s next settlement will be with Mission. I am not confident it will happen soon, as in the next week or so. But I see it happening before a Sinclair deal.

Update: Dish on January 29 settled with Mission. Our prediction was right. 

Jenny, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann