Fox Pulls Nets From Dish10/01/2010 7:01 AM Eastern
Fox pulled a number of cable channels and regional sports networks from Dish Network Oct. 1 as the midnight (Pacific Time) deadline passed without a carriage agreement, possibly setting the tone for a much nastier retransmission consent fight for Fox broadcasting stations next month.
As expected, Fox pulled FX, National Geographic Channel and 19 regional sports networks from Dish subscribers. As of 7 a.m. Eastern Time, no deal had been reached.
As is usual in carriage disputes, the main impasse appears to be over rates. Dish claims that Fox is asking for a more than 50% increase in carriage fees for the networks (which Fox disputes), a boost that the satellite carrier believes is unwarranted.
"Dish Network is not going to allow Fox or any programmer to bully our customers into paying such an unconscionable price increase," Dish senior vice president of programming Dave Shull said in a statement. "Fox has a long history of trying to shake down pay TV providers, including Cablevision, Time Warner, and Bright House."
In the meantime, Dish said it is making the following channels available to its customers at no additional charge while the dispute lasts: HD Net Movies, HD Theater, NBA TV, New England Sports Network, NFL Network, NHL Network, Altitude Sports, Big Ten Network, Comcast SportsNet California, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Comcast Sports Network Mid-Atlantic, Comcast Sports New England, ESPN Classic, FOX Sports Northwest, FOX Sports Pittsburgh, FOX Sports Rocky Mountain, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network2, SportsNet New York, and SportsTime Ohio.
"Our customers should not be held hostage in order to finance Fox's irresponsible acquisition of sports rights. Consumers are already burdened enough in this challenging economy," Shull continued.
Fox countered that it is only asking for fair compensation for its networks. And it warned that Dish subscribers could face the same problems with its Fox broadcast and MyNetwork TV stations come Nov. 1, when its retransmission consent deals expire with the satellite giant.
"At midnight on Sept. 30, Dish Network decided to no longer carry Fox Networks cable programming," Fox said in a statement. "The proposal we've offered Dish is fair and in line with the tremendous value we provide. We regret the inconvenience to our viewers, but Dish has asserted its subscribers do not value our channels and has made a decision to go forward without them. Fox fans who wish to learn about alternative providers in their area are encouraged to visit www.getwhatipaidfor.com for more information."
Among Fox's recommendations on the site is for Dish subscribers to switch to DirecTV, FiOs, AT&T U-Verse or their local cable operator.
Fox and Dish both have a history of tough negotiations over carriage agreements. The programmer has had high profile retrans battles with Time Warner Cable and is currently locked in a dispute with Cablevision.
Dish has not been afraid to allow networks to fall off in past negotiations - About 10 Viacom cable networks including MTV and Nickelodeon and 15 CBS broadcast stations went dark for two days on Dish in 2004 and Lifetime channels met the same fate for several weeks in 2006. This year, Fuse network fell from the satellite giant's lineup in July and HD feeds for Disney Channel, Disney XD, ESPNews and ABC Family all fell off in June and remain so.
While Dish may seem to have the upper hand in this carriage fight - in the short term, Major League Baseball's regular season ends this week, with all but a couple of races decided, while the National Hockey League doesn't face off its 2010-11 campaign until Oct. 7 - it could be in for a battle come November. By that time, Fox broadcasting stations will be well into Major League Baseball's World Series (beginning Oct. 27), not to mention weekend airings of National Football League games.