Hearst Stations Could Go Dark on Dish

Broadcaster says 33 stations could be pulled if deal not reached by March 1

About a month after its 33 television stations went dark to AT&T U-verse and DirecTV customers for seven days in January, Hearst Television says the same fate may befall customers of No. 2 satellite TV company Dish Network.

Hearst resolved its dispute with AT&T on Jan. 8 after its stations went dark on midnight on Jan. 1. For Dish, the broadcaster is warning that its stations could go dark if a retransmission consent deal isn’t reached by March 1. News of the potential blackout was first reported by Fierce Cable.

In a statement, Dish said it is working toward a resolution to avoid a blackout and that it has negotiated hundreds of retrans deals over the past months with no problems. 

“Dish has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers," Dish said in its statement. "We are unsure why Hearst decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process at a point when there is still time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal.”

The dispute appears to be over money. Hearst TV owns stations in 26 markets across the country that it says reach about 21 million TV households. Those markets include Boston (ABC affiliate WCVB); Pittsburgh (ABC affiliate WTAE); New Orleans (NBC affiliate WDSU); Baltimore (NBC affiliate WBAL); Louisville, Ky. (CBS affiliate WLKY); and Orlando, Fla. (NBC affiliate WESH).

“While we believe that we and Dish Network can conclude our negotiations before March 1st, so as not to deprive any of our respective viewers and customers of our programming, we want to advise our viewers and customers that the possibility of non-renewal of our current agreement exists,” Hearst said in a statement on its station web sites.