Dish, Schurz Avoid Blackout

Retrans Agreement Covers Stations in Six Cities

Dish Network and Schurz Communications avoided a blackout of the broadcasters’ stations in six cities, reaching a retransmission consent agreement just minutes before their old pact was set to expire.

Schurz 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., were scheduled to go dark at midnight on Dec. 21.  Earlier, Dish had said Schurz was demanding a five-fold rate increase and a surcharge for its ad-skipping DVR service Auto Hop.

Schurz said on its corporate website that “terms of the agreement are still being hammered out, but both sides have agreed to keep stations on Dish to avoid any disruption to consumers.”

On its KWCH and KSCW websites, Sunflower Broadcasting, a Schurz subsidiary that operates the stations, said while the Auto Hop feature “has been a source of contention with the major networks,” It was never part of the negotiations with Dish.

“To keep this in perspective, the disagreement centered around pennies per day,” said Sunflower president and general manager Joan Barrett in a statement. “We’ve reached similar compensation agreements with all of our other providers.”

Terms of the new deal were not disclosed, but apparently the two sides reached some sort of compromise. Dish did not mention whether the Auto Hop service was part of the final agreement.

 “We’re pleased to announce that we have reached a fair, market-based deal with Schurz,” said Dish senior vice president of programming Dave Shull in a statement. “The agreement allows Dish to continue offering Schurz’s local channels at a good value to our customers, while maintaining consumer choice and control.”