Hearst, Dish Don't Appear to Be Negotiating

Impasse continues into day five

Hearst appeared to signal Tuesday that it was not currently in talks with Dish over their carriage impasse, while TVFreedom, the group pushing back on the American Television Alliance, which represents MVPDs on the issue of retrans impasses, well, pushed back.

In a note from Hearst GMs to viewers posted on station websites, Hearst said, “Our negotiating team has been ready and available around-the-clock to engage in substantive negotiations with Dish Network," suggesting the team was not being employed at the moment. A Hearst spokesperson would not comment on the talks, or the lack of them, or who had the latest offer on the table.

After Hearst stations went dark on Dish in 26 states March 3 -- following unsuccessful negotiations and a 48-hour extension from Hearst -- the ATVA weighed in, calling it a "massive consumer blackout" and charging Hearst with being "responsible for more than half of all consumer blackouts this year."

That was a reference to Hearst's week-long retrans impasse with DirecTV back in January involving the same stations and markets.

“Repeat offenders like Hearst Television prove there’s nothing to stop broadcasters from hitting consumers on the nose with more blackouts and higher fees," said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman, last week. 

In the GM note to viewers, Hearst countered that "Since 2015, Dish has been involved in nearly 60% of all carriage disputes with broadcasters—by far the largest amount of any pay TV operator. In fact, Dish has refused to carry one or more broadcasters nearly every week since this past Christmas."

TVFreedom added in a blog post that "Dish has forced more programming disruptions than any other pay TV service, based on reports from SNL Kagan. In fact, over the last three months, Dish has gone only two weeks without a disruption. And since January 2015, DISH has been involved in a whopping 58% of all retransmission consent impasses."

In the case of both the Hearst/TVFreedom and Dish assertions, that percentage figure has to do with the number of stations involved rather than the number of impasses (MVPDs call them "blackouts") that have occurred.

TV stations do have control of their signals when a contract has expired, but Hearst pointed out that the stations are still available over the air, and on other MVPDS.