The retransmission consent deal for all Fisher Communications stations expired and all had been removed as of yesterday from the Dish Network local-to-local service in its Northwestern and California markets. Fisher insists that its retrans payment request is “reasonable.” It didn’t say how much it is asking for, but supplied viewers with a list on its website of what various less-watched cable channels charge per month.
"Despite Fisher’s good-faith efforts to negotiate a new agreement, we were unable to reach acceptable terms to ensure that Dish provides us fair compensation for the value they receive from broadcasting our stations, which have leading positions in their markets and consistently deliver highly viewed news and programming," said Rob Dunlop, Fisher’s Senior Vice President of Operations.
Fisher said the stations no longer available to Dish customers are: KOMO and KUNS in Seattle, KIMA and KUNW in Yakima, KATU in Portland, KVAL in Eugene, KBCI in Boise, KIDK in Idaho Falls, and KBAK and KBFX in Bakersfield.
“In light of the inclement weather impacting much of the Pacific Northwest and concerns about public safety, Fisher attempted to extend the expiration of the current agreement until Monday, December 22 to ensure that Dish customers in the region could continue to receive news and weather updates. However, Dish rejected the Company’s proposal,” Fisher said in a statement yesterday.
Fisher also announced that it is suing Dish for $1 million, claiming breach of contract under the previous retrans agreement. It claims that Dish violated the terms of the carriage agreement regarding stations that Fisher acquired in Portland and Bakersfield.
On the website of KOMO-TV (ABC) Seattle, Fisher told Dish customers: “Dish charges you a fee to receive KOMO. We believe Dish should be willing to pay a small portion of the fees you pay to Dish for the program content we provide to you. Our request is reasonable given our award-winning news, sport, and entertainment programming. It is considerably less than the amount paid by Dish for less popular satellite program networks.”
To drive home the point, Fisher quoted license fees from 2006 from an FCC filing. ESPN, of course, was the most expensive, at $2.91 per month – and the company noted a Wall Street Journal article said that rose to $3.26 in 2007. Fox Sports was $1.67. For cable news, Fox News was 75 cents, CNN 44 cents and MSNBC 15 cents. Some of the lowest priced channels were Travel at nine cents, Animal Planet and Food Network at eight cents each and CMT at a nickel.
For Dish subscribers no longer able to receive the local station, Fisher suggested switching to free over-the-air reception, DirecTV, the local cable system or, in some cases, the local phone company.
RBR/TVBR observation: If history is any indicator, this should last just a few days. Dish has played this game a few times before.