Fair or Foul? TEGNA Stations Blocked by Dish In Retrans Impasse

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Yet another battle royale over retransmission consent fees has begun, as of 9pm Eastern on Wednesday.


This time, it involves one of the nation’s two direct broadcast satellite (DBS) companies and the company that Standard General, headed by Soo Kim, and Apollo Global Management seek to own.


TEGNA-
owned stations are no longer accessible to Dish customers.

Why? As TEGNA sees it, the reason for the channel block is Dish, which refuses to reach “a fair, market-based agreement to continue carriage of those stations.”

TEGNA adds that it provided DISH with an extension beyond the original contract deadline to allow for further talks between the two sides. Dish responded Tuesday morning with its own statement, with the Colorado-based company diving into 5G and wireless technology blasting TEGNA for “demanding a massive increase to nearly a billion dollars in fees for its programming,” and for using viewers as a bargaining chip in the companies’ negotiations.

Dish then offered its own interpretation of how, some 20 years ago, “broadcasters like TEGNA began charging cable and satellite companies to deliver their ‘free’ local station signals to the public.”

The fees have risen substantially for many companies over recent quarters, as stated in earnings reports and conference calls for Wall Street analysts. In fact, many broadcast media companies have boasted of how retransmission revenue is a growing and important component of their entire P&L sheet — especially as linear advertising for TV isn’t as rosy as in years past.

DISH TV Group President Brian Neylon remarked, “Businesses should have the opportunity to be profitable, but there’s a big difference between running a profitable business and taking blatant advantage of consumers. TEGNA is demanding an unreasonable fee increase — an increase the programmer knows will directly impact its viewers.”

By law, DISH must block any TEGNA-owned station from its customers in the absence of an active retransmission carriage agreement. And, to little surprise, DISH blames TEGNA for the impasse.

In reality, it takes both TEGNA and Dish to reach a fair agreement.

What does TEGNA have to say on the matter?

“We are committed to reaching a fair, market-based agreement with DISH based on the competitive terms we’ve used to reach deals with numerous other providers that reflect the current market,” a company spokesperson said ahead of the channel block on Dish lineups. “Thus far, DISH has refused to agree to such terms.”

The Dish drain for TEGNA comes after the Northern Virginia-based broadcasting company on September 21 confirmed that Apollo Global Management — the controlling party of Cox Media Group — has teamed up with dissident investor Standard General, led by Soo Kim — on a binding TEGNA acquisition bid valued at upward of $8 billion.

In a brief statement, the broadcast TV station owner formerly known as Gannett confirmed it has recently received “acquisition proposals.” And, it offered no further comment.

TEGNA owns and operates 64 television stations in 51 markets. And, since August 2019, TEGNA is the owner of Sports WBNS-FM “97.1 The Fan” and ESPN Radio affiliate WBNS-AM 1460. Among TEGNA’s stations are CBS affiliates WUSA-9 in Washington, DC and WTSP-10 in Tampa-St. Petersburg; and NBC affiliates KGW-8 in Portland, Ore., and WGRZ-2 in Buffalo-Niagara Falls, which also reaches much of the Toronto GTA.

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