Dish Network customers were without access Thursday to Fox Corp. television stations in 17 markets in 23 states and the District of Columbia, as well as a handful of cable sports networks after the programmer could not reach a carriage agreement, the satellite company said.
In addition to the broadcast channels -- including stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- cable sports networks FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Deportes also went dark to Dish customers.
In a press release, Dish said Fox is demanding a double-digit increase in fees to continue carrying the networks, adding that the programmer is trying to “force bundle” its local channels with unrelated cable networks to extract more money and negotiating leverage.
"Taken together, Fox's actions are profoundly anti-consumer," Dish SVP of programming Andy LeCuyer said in the release. "Fox is raising prices and turning its back on its public obligation to provide channels to consumers for free. It's clear that Fox cares more about padding its bottom line than serving its viewers."
Dish claimed negotiations were making progress and that it had offered a short-term extension -- with a retroactive “true-up” that would incorporate new rates when they were agreed upon -- that would give its customers uninterrupted access to the programming while talks continued. That offer, Dish said, was rejected by Fox.
"Fox had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving its channels up," LeCuyer said in the release. "Instead, Fox chose to harm its own viewers."
Fox countered with claims that the satellite company is using the blackout as a negotiating ploy and reminded Dish subscribers that other television providers carry the networks.
“Dish/Sling is at it again, choosing to drop leading programming as a negotiating tactic regardless of the impact on its own customers," Fox said in a statement. “Dish/Sling elected to drop Fox networks in an effort to coerce us to agree to outrageous demands. While we regret this is Dish/Sling’s preferred approach to negotiating, we remind our loyal viewers that the Fox services are widely available through every other major television provider.”
The blackout comes as Dish is in a months-long dispute with Sinclair Broadcast Group over its recently acquired Fox Sports regional sports networks. Those channels went dark to Dish customers in July and chairman Charlie Ergen said it is possible they would never return. In August, Denver-area RSN Altitude Sports & Entertainment went dark to Dish customers.
Dish said it is offering affected customers free over-the-air antennas to view the Fox broadcast channels, and is giving customers the option to completely drop their local channels from their programming package to save $12 on their monthly bill. Dish said it will install an antenna for qualifying customers in Fox markets based on the reception available at their home.