TV Answer Man, I am a bit confused. Sinclair said Dish will lose all their channels, but Dish said that may not happen. Why is that? Why did Sinclair put out a statement saying the channels will be removed if they haven’t been removed yet? — Ginny, Mobile, Alabama.
Ginny, Sinclair on Monday issued a press release that said it was unlikely that it would reach a new carriage agreement with Dish before the current one expires on August 16. If a new pact is not signed by then, Dish could lose Sinclair’s 112 local TV stations, the Tennis Channel, and it would not resume carrying the Sinclair-owned 19 Bally Sports regional sports networks. (Dish has been without the sports nets since July 2019 due to a separate carriage fight.)
The broadcaster didn’t say the local channels would definitely be removed, only that it was likely. That is quite the difference, and could explain why Sinclair published the warning a full week before the deadline.
We don’t know the true status of the negotiations. It’s possible that Sinclair actually believes it’s highly improbable that an agreement will be reached in time, and it wants to let its viewers know so they can plan accordingly. (Dish says a pre-deadline deal is possible, for what that’s worth.)
But by issuing the press release on Monday, the broadcaster is also trying to apply public pressure on Dish to accept its terms. Sinclair hopes that the alert will persuade a significant number of Dish customers to call their TV provider and demand a settlement. The thinking is that this will force Dish to be more amenable to Sinclair’s demands.
Of course, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen does not normally cave when pressured; his company has been involved in more carriage disputes (and channel blackouts) than any pay TV service in history. But that doesn’t stop Sinclair from giving it a shot. It has little to lose by issuing the warning this week.
Despite the press release, we likely won’t know if there will be a Dish-Sinclair blackout until the deadline day of August 16. Until then, we will see a lot of rhetoric tossed back and forth, but it won’t reflect the reality of the status of the talks.
The TV Answer Man will continue to monitor this dispute, and report back here if anything significant changes. Until then, happy viewing, and stay safe!
Note: This dispute also affects Sling TV, the multi-channel, live streaming service owned by Dish.
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— Phillip Swann