Q. I’m tired of Dish always getting a channel blackout. Will they ever stop doing this and will we ever get our sports channels back? I can’t take this much more. — Frankie, Mesa, Arizona.
Frankie, I hear you, but you should know that Dish has settled three major carriage disputes in the last six weeks, returning 207 channels to its lineup.
On December 13, Dish was missing 237 channels due to fee fights. But since then, the satcaster has come to terms with Apollo/Cox (14 local stations), Nexstar (164 local stations and WGN America) and Mission Broadcasting (28 local stations.). For a company that’s arguably best known for being tough in carriage negotiations, Dish may soon become best known as a pay TV peacemaker!
I’m kidding, of course. I don’t foresee Dish never having a channel blackout again, not as long as the wily Charlie Ergen sits in the chairman’s chair. But it is remarkable that the company has settled three big disputes in such a short time.
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However, Dish is still missing the following channels due to fee fights:
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
Capitol Broadcasting — 3 local channels
(Note: The Capitol Broadcasting blackout occurred on December 29 after our original tally of 237 channels missing due to disputes.)
Dish’s recent success at the negotiating table has prompted some subscribers to speculate (or simply hope) that Sinclair is next. The 21 Fox regional sports channels, which are owned by Sinclair, and will soon be renamed Bally, have been missing from Dish’s lineup since July 26, 2019.
I think Dish’s decision to find common ground with Nexstar, Cox and Mission bodes well for a Sinclair settlement. It can’t be a coincidence that the satcaster ended three blackouts in just six weeks considering two of them (Cox/Apollo and Mission) had lasted months. It suggests the company is correcting its course, at least somewhat.
But when Dish will settle with Sinclair is another matter. The satcaster also has a contract with Sinclair to carry its 100-plus local network affiliates, and it’s set to expire this year. But we don’t know exactly when it’s expiring, and it’s highly likely that Dish would wait until near its end before negotiating for both the locals and the sports channels. (Sinclair has said it would require Dish to carry both as well.)
That complicates the timing of a Dish-Sinclair agreement. But I do think it will happen.
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— Phillip Swann