Dish Drop Kicks GolTV In Contract Dispute

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It’s yet another batch of contract disputes for Charlie Ergen, as his Dish Network has removed GolTV and four Midwestern TV stations owned by Citadel Communications from its lineup.

All of the drops came Friday, when Dish Network’s carriage deal with GolTV, as well as its retransmission-consent agreements with Citadel, expired Aug. 1. In a press release about the soccer-centric channel, which is available with either an English or Spanish-language feed, Dish Network said that GolTV “has discontinued delivery of its channel to Dish Network customers.”

GolTV had been available on the No. 2 satellite operator’s America's Top 250 and Dish Latino programming packages. 

Price -- Kagan Associates estimates GolTV’s average monthly subscriber fee at six cents --is evidently at the center of the dispute.

“Dish Network deeply regrets the disruption of service, but prior to the loss of GolTV, the network refused to offer to negotiate a fair and reasonable price for continued carriage,” the satellite provider said in press release that also included a statement from Eric Sahl, the company’s senior vice president of programming.

“We are working hard to negotiate a fair contract with GolTV,” Sahl said. “But we must also protect our customers from unreasonable demands. We take pride in offering consumers the best value for pay TV service in the industry, and we remain committed to keeping our cost structure low to the benefit of our customers.”

A spokesman for GolTV countered by saying:: “The way Dish has conducted itself in this matter has been egregious and as a pure bully.”

The Gol TV spokesman said there had not been any negotiations over the weekend, but he anticipates that talks would resume on Monday.

In the meantime, GolTV is encouraging disconnected subscribers to take action by emailing GolTV at info@goltv.tv

“Dish Network has demonstrated total disregard for independent networks, the millions of soccer fans we represent, and minority-owned businesses by this action," said GolTV COO Rodrigo Lombello in a statement. “We urge upset Dish viewers to contact us or Dish to voice their concerns."

Multichannel News blogger Scott Greczkowski reported that on GolTV’s Web site, the programmer said it was no longer available on Dish Network, and “this occurs despite efforts to continue GolTV’s availability to Dish customers.”

For its part, the satellite company said that “in the meantime,” with GolTV off Dish’s lineup, it recommends that subscribers watch “similar programming” on the Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN Deportes. Dish Network also this weekend began offering DishLatino customers a 60-day free preview of Setanta Sports on channel 406.

America’s Top 250 customers will have free access to English Premier League soccer the weekend of Aug. 15 on channel 852, and Dish Network is also providing a free preview of Fox Sports en Español for customers subscribing to America’s Top 250 (DishLatino customers already receive this channel).

GolTV said Dish subscribers will miss out on its upcoming coverage of Germany's Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga, which kick off new seasons on Aug. 15 and 31, respectively, as well as 2010 World Cup qualifying matches.

Also on Friday, in a press statement the satellite provider said that Citadel “forced” it to remove WHBF, a CBS affiliate in Davenport, Iowa; WOI, an ABC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa; KLKN, an ABC affiliate in Lincoln, Neb.; and KCAU, an ABC affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, from its roster.

Citadel officials claim that Dish Network basically sat on its retransmission-consent proposal for 60 days, and that it is seeking cash compensation for its stations similar to what other network-affiliated stations get. Dish Network charges that Citadel is seeking unreasonable price increases.

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