Dish Gears Up For Retrans Battle

Says Schurz Demands Huge Rate Increase, Surcharge for Auto Hop

Dish Network subscribers in six cities could lose access to local programming if the satellite giant does not reach a retransmission consent agreement with Schurz Communications by midnight Friday.

Mishawaka, Ind.-based Schurz owns TV stations KTUU (NBC) in Anchorage, Alaska; KY3 (NBC), KCZ (The CW) and KSPR (ABC) in Springfield, Mo.; WDBJ (CBS) in Roanoke, Va,; WSBT (CBS) in South Bend, Ind.; WAGT (NBC) in Augusta, Ga.; and KWCH (CBS) and KSCW (The CW) in Wichita, Kan.

Dish’s current agreement with Schurz is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 21. If an agreement or extension is not reached by then, Dish customers in those cities could lose access to sports programming like college and NFL football and entertainment programming like NCIS, Chicago Fire and Modern Family.

Dish claims that Schurz is demanding a five-fold increase in rates and is asking for a surcharge for the satellite giant’s ad-skipping DVR service, Auto Hop.

“Dish has been unable to reach an agreement with Schurz Communications because Schurz is demanding that Dish pay a significant penalty for allowing our customers access to Auto Hop, a commercial-skipping feature on our Hopper,” said Dish senior vice president of programming Dave Shull in a statement. “Consumers have had the right to skip commercials since the advent of the remote control. We are simply providing consumers with choice to watch what they want, when they want. We will continue to stand for consumer choice and control.”

On its station websites, Schurz disputes Dish’s claims, adding it has reached retrans agreements with every distributor in its territory – save Dish – without dispute.

“We're disappointed that's not the case with Dish,” Schurz said in a statement. “However, we're not terribly surprised as Dish, as a company, has been involved in a large number of these type of 'stale-mates' across the country.”

Dish has been involved in several retransmission skirmishes in the past. Its last retrans negotiation with Gannett Broadcasting in October also included, according to Dish, a potential change to the Auto Hop. That agreement was reached after a brief extension with no disruption of service and no modification to the Auto Hop.

Schurz, in a statement, disputed Dish’s claims that it is demanding a big fee increase, adding that its stations are among the highest viewed stations on the Dish network system, and that the programmer has reached market-based agreements with other providers on the same basic terms it is offering Dish.    

“We do not believe customers should be disrupted by these discussions and continue to work hard to try and get Dish to reach an agreement as quickly as possible,” Schurz said in a statement.