By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
More than 30 years of experience covering TV technology.
TV Answer Man, we have been without our ABC station here on Dish for months. Do you know when this thing will end? Are they even talking about a settlement? — Vicki, Atlanta.
Vicki, you are not alone. Dish is now without 77 local channels due to four separate carriage disputes with local broadcasters. The satcaster’s subscribers have been without 37 Hearst-owned local stations since September 8; 13 Cox Media stations since last November; 25 Mission-owned stations since January; and two White Knight locals since January as well. Meanwhile, three other major TV providers (DIRECTV, Comcast and Charter’s Spectrum TV) have settled fee fights in recent weeks. What are they doing that Dish is not?
Well, Vicki, I have covered Dish and the TV industry for more than three decades and I can say with complete confidence that there is no tougher negotiator than Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen. The company’s co-founder does not believe in leaving money on the table and, consequently, will not settle a carriage dispute (or any other financial fight) without exacting the best terms possible. Over the years, that has led to numerous channel blackouts which Dish subscribers well know. But Ergen’s approach has also allowed the company to keep prices somewhat lower than its rivals, albeit not by a much these days. (Dish just raised prices by $5 a month on each programming package.)
Companies rarely disclose the private discussions of carriage settlement talks such as when they meet, or even if they are meeting. And that’s the case here with Dish’s multiple fee fights. But rest assured that they won’t be settled until Ergen is more than happy with the terms. That will likely mean the blackouts will last several more weeks, if not longer.
Vicki, we will update this situation if we get more information. Until then, happy viewing and stay safe!
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann