More than a dozen mid-sized and small market TV stations owned by Cordillera Communications went dark to Dish Network customers this afternoon, the result of an ongoing retransmission consent dispute that could cause some customers of the satellite giant in the West, Southwest and Southern portions of the country to miss the opening round of the National Football League playoffs.
“Unfortunately, Dish Network has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with Cordillera even as we offer terms similar to those of existing agreements with every other cable and satellite provider,” said Cordillera president Terrance Hurley in a statement.
In a statement, Dish said Cordillera is seeking a rate increase double its current rate and is using the upcoming NFL playoffs as leverage in negotiations. Dish added that Cordillera has refused its offer to match the rates paid by other pay-TV providers.
“With Dish willing to grant an extension and a retroactive true-up on rates, Cordillera had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channels up,” said Dish exective vice president of programming Warren Schlichting in a statement. “Instead, Cordillera is using innocent consumers as bargaining chips by blacking them out from a marquee sporting event, the NFL Wild Card playoffs, and turning its back on its public interest obligations. Cordillera is running the same play it’s used with multiple major pay-TV providers in recent years.”
According to Dish, the two parties had been making steady progress in negotiations, and the satellite giant was hopeful that they would come to a mutual agreement to renew carriage of the Cordillera local stations. In that spirit, Dish said it offered a short-term contract extension to Cordillera that would include a retroactive true-up when new rates were agreed upon, and would preserve the ability of Dish customers to access the Cordillera local stations while negotiations continued. The true-up would ensure that Cordillera was made whole at the new rates for the period of any contract extension.
“We are actively working to negotiate an agreement that promptly returns this content to Dish’s programming lineup,” added Schlichting in a statement.
The blackout came at noon CST Jan. 7, after Cordillera granted Dish a one-week extension to its original retrans deal, which was set to expire Dec. 31. The stations are:
- KTVQ (CBS) Billings, Mont.
- KXLF/KBZK (CBS) Butte-Bozeman, Mont.
- KOAA (NBC) Colorado Springs/Pueblo, Colo.
- KRIS (NBC) Corpus Christi, Texas
- KRTV (CBS) Great Falls, Mont.
- KBGF(NBC) Great Falls, Mont.
- KXLH (CBS) Helena, Mont.
- KTVH (NBC) Helena, Mont.
- KATC (ABC) Lafayette, La.
- WLEX (NBC) Lexington, Ky.
- KPAX/KAJ (CBS) Missoula/Kalispell, Mont.
- KSBY (NBC) Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo, Calif.
- KVOA (NBC) for Tucson, Ariz.
The Dish dispute comes just days prior to the NFL’s post season Wild Card Weekend and some Dish subscribers could potentially miss half of the games. According to NFL.com, the NFL Wild Card Weekend kicks off Saturday, Jan. 9 with a matchjup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans on ESPN at 4:35 p.m., followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Cincinnati Bengals at 8:15 p.m. on CBS. A Sunday matchup between the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Minnesota Vikings is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. on NBC. The Green Bay Packers will meet the Washington Redskins at 4:40 p.m. on Sunday on Fox.
This is not the first time that Cordillera went dark to a satellite TV service provider. Last January, ten Cordillera stations went dark to Direct TV customers in seven states for about ten days. The stations returned on Jan. 10, just in time for the AFC Divisional playoffs.
“Dish may not recognize the value of our market-leading TV stations, but its subscribers do,” Hurley said in a statement. “Viewers depend on our local news and weather coverage, demand our top-rated network and syndicated programming, and support these local stations that in turn support their local communities. We remain committed to working tirelessly to negotiate a new agreement with Dish Network and sincerely apologize to our viewers who are impacted by this business dispute.”
Cordillera is a subsidiary of Charleston, SC-based Evening Post Industries, LLC, which includes network-affiliated TV stations, digital media properties, advertising agencies, and newspapers.