Comcast SportsNet Services Could Go Dark on Dish

Contracts for Four More RSNs Expire in December

(Updated: 9 p.m.)

Comcast's SportsNet regionals may be the next programming services to disconnect from Dish Network.

NBC Sports Group, which operates the regional sports networks bearing its parent’s name, said the contracts for four of its RSNs will expire early next month, and it is concerned that renewals may not be reached in time to prevent blackouts.

The contracts for CSN Chicago, CSN Mid-Atlantic, CSN Bay Area and CSN California will expire on Dec. 2.  CSN New England, which carries Boston Celtics' NBA games, has been off of Dish’s air since Aug. 1 in a contract dispute.

Dish has never carried two of the programmer's other RSNs: CSN Philadelphia and CSN Northwest, or its recently shuttered holding, CSN Houston.  The DBS provider no longer distributes SNY, the New York Mets service that NBC Sports operates and owns an equity stake in. 

NBC Sports Regional Networks issued the following statement late Thursday afternoon: “With the upcoming expiration of our agreements, we are growing increasingly concerned that Dish is not willing to work toward mutually acceptable terms for continuing carriage of NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of Comcast SportsNet regional networks. This unwillingness to recognize the value that live sports delivers, and meet terms that have already been established with our other distribution partners, is putting Dish customers at risk of losing access to Comcast SportsNet’s live game coverage and comprehensive sports news. We feel that the time has come to inform our networks’ passionate viewers of teams from Chicago, Washington DC, Baltimore, San Francisco and Sacramento that they may soon be unable to watch their favorite NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS teams via Dish’s service."

Dish responded by saying the programmer is looking for a double-digit license fee hike: “Comcast SportsNet is demanding a nearly 20 percent price increase for more than 90 percent of Dish customers in each of the affected markets, when only a small fraction of those consumers actually watch the channels. This heavy-handed tactic is troubling given Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable that would allow it to exercise even more power to leverage programming content in anti-competitive ways.”

Given the season, Dish subscribers to CSN Chicago could miss NBA Bulls and NHL Blackhawks games, while Mid-Atlantic customers might go without pro hoops and hockey contests featuring the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, respectively. For its part, CSN California televises the NBA Sacramento Kings and the NHL San Jose Sharks; CSN Bay Area airs Steph Curry (pictured) and the NBA Golden State Warriors, which currently sit atop the Pacific division.

The No. 2 DBS provider, which has a history of contentious contract negotiations with programmers, is currently engaged in a couple of other bouts of carriage contretemps.

Eight Turner Broadcasting system networks  -- CNN, CNN en Español, HLN, Boomerang, truTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies – went dark to Dish’s 14 million national customers on Oct. 20, after the parties couldn’t come to terms on a new deal. The contract for the programmer’s most-watched networks, TNT and TBS, expires on Dec. 5.

Elsewhere, CBS claims Dish is willing to let its owned-and-operated stations and cable networks go dark to its customers.