Some 29 Hearst stations in 25 markets went dark to Dish Network subscribers 4/8 after they failed to reach a retransmission consent agreement by the 9 p.m. CT deadline. The Hearst stations cover 18.2% of US households.
“Hearst’s decision to cut ties with DISH customers is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts,” said R. Stanton Dodge, DISH EVP/general counsel. “Broadcasters like Hearst use their in-market monopoly power to put profits ahead of the public interests they are supposed to serve.”
“Hearst blacked out its channels to use viewers as bargaining chips as it makes unreasonable demands on DISH and its customers,” said Dave Shull, DISH executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “We offered to keep the channels on while we try to reach a deal, but Hearst refuses to put viewers first.”
This service disruption comes despite DISH’s offer of a short-term contract extension that would preserve the channels as the two parties continue to negotiate.
“We are actively working to negotiate an agreement that promptly returns this content to DISH’s programming lineup,” added Shull.
The American Television Alliance issued the following statement: “If broadcasters are truly serious about ending blackouts, now is their chance. All Hearst has to do is leave the signal up and consumers in 25 markets would not be blacked out right now. But clearly they are more interested in extracting huge profits from pay-TV consumers. Broadcasters are not, in fact, ‘always on’.”
The move affects viewers of various ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, MyNetwork and independent stations in the following 25 markets: Albuquerque, N.M.; Baltimore; Boston; Burlington, Vt.; Cincinnati; Des Moines, Iowa; Ft. Smith-Fayetteville, Ark.; Greensboro, N.C.; Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Honolulu; Jackson, Miss.; Kansas City, Mo.; Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee; Monterey-Salinas, Calif.; New Orleans; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Omaha, Neb.; Orlando, Fla.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland-Auburn, Maine; Sacramento, Calif.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.
“It appears that Dish does not have a problem with the rates we are seeking,” said Dan Joerres, GM of Hearst’s WBAL-TV Baltimore, said in a statement. “But the Dish negotiating team is seeking other terms that we don’t have in our deals with any other cable or satellite distributor or telco, nor do we have them in our current deal with Dish. Frankly, we are scratching our heads as to why Dish would hold their own customers and our viewers hostage for terms that are radically off-market.”