Dish Says Hearst Refuses to Negotiate in Retrans Battle

Programming chief Schlichting says satcaster willing to go back to table

Dish Network programming chief Warren Schlichting pleaded with Hearst Television to come back to the table to negotiate an end to its week-long retransmission consent battle.

Hearst pulled the signal of 33 broadcast stations in 26 markets to Dish customers on March 3 after the parties could not reach an agreement. The dispute appears to be over money – Dish thinks its paying too much and Hearst not enough. But earlier in the week it appeared as if Hearst was refusing to continue talks to resolve the matter, which Schlichting appeared to confirm on Thursday.

In a video message to Dish customers, Schlichting said that despite its efforts to bring an end to the impasse, Hearst refused to negotiate with Dish.

In the message, Schlichting called the impasse “truly unfortunate,” but explained the company's hands are tied.

“I and my team have been attempting to negotiate with Hearst since before they blacked out their stations, but Hearst has refused," Schlichting said. "At this point, they won’t budge from their last offer which was on March 1, an offer that would double – let me say that again – double the price of their channels and make Hearst the highest paid local broadcaster on Dish.”

"It takes two willing parties to negotiate and right now we are the only ones at the table,” Schlichting continued. “Hearst won’t respond to our latest offer.”

Schlichting added that Dish has offered to take the same deal that DirecTV reached with Hearst in January, which ended a seven-day blackout, but Hearst has refused. That is fairly understandable since DirecTV has about 20 million customers compared to 13.7 million from Dish. DirecTV, given its size, is likely paying a much lower rate than Dish.

On its station websites, Hearst says its negotiating team “has been ready and available around-the-clock to engage in substantive negotiations with DISH Network,” and noted that it has earlier granted a two-day extension to the company which ended on March 3. When no deal was reached, Hearst pulled its signal.