Dish Network and Sinclair Broadcast Group said they reached an agreement in principle on a retransmission-consent deal, largely averting a blackout of 70 local stations in 45 markets for the satellite operator's subscribers.
"Dish is pleased to tell our customers that we have reached an agreement in principle with Sinclair Broadcast Group, allowing Dish to continue offering Sinclair's local channels to our customers," the satellite operator said in a statement early Thursday morning. "We thank our customers for their patience as we work to offer them the best content at the best value."
Sinclair executive vice president and general counsel Barry Faber confirmed that it has reached a tentative agreement with Dish. Sinclair, the largest TV station group in the U.S., has granted a two-week extension to the companies' previous agreement as they work out the final terms.
Sinclair's stations were in danger of going dark on Dish at midnight Wednesday. Those include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, MyNetworkTV and CW affiliates in different markets.
Actually, the standoff apparently was resolved at more like the 13th hour. According to the Facebook pages of several Sinclair stations, Dish subscribers lost access to their feeds for a few hours after midnight before being restored sometime between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Eastern.
The previous retransmission-consent deal between Dish and Sinclair expired at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Thursday, and the broadcast company had warned Tuesday that "significant doubt exists as to whether or not a new agreement will be reached with Dish."
As has been the pattern in numerous clashes over retrans fees, both sides engaged in a war of words. Dish had complained that Sinclair was demanding a "massive price increase" that would force the satellite operator pay more than it pays any other broadcaster.
Sinclair countered Dish by claiming the fees it was asking for were "substantially lower" than the amounts the DBS operator pays for "far less popular" cable TV networks. The broadcaster said that was the result of "Dish's flawed economic model that on a relative basis compensates channels with little to no audience share more than the broadcast channels."
Dish, with 14.06 million subscribers as of the end of June, is the third-largest pay TV provider in the U.S. after Comcast and DirecTV.
Sinclair reaches approximately 26.3% of U.S. television households. With its recently announced Newport Television acquisition, Sinclair will own and operate 82 stations in 47 markets, reaching 27.3% of the U.S. television households