After losing an arbitration decision relative to its dispute with Comcast SportsNet California on Nov. 23,
Dish Network disconnected the regional sports network at midnight.
The parties had been out of contract since September 2009. Dish last year notified Comcast of its intent to seek arbitration, its right under a condition imposed upon Comcast's (and Time Warner Cable's) 2006 acquisition of Adelphia Communications that enabled the No. 2 DBS provider to ask fro an FCC-mandated arbitrator to settle any pricing impasse.
CSN California holds the rights to Major League Baseball's Oakland A's, the National Basketball Association's Sacramento Kings and the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks. The Sharks's game against the defending Stanly Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks is slated for Nov. 24.
Terms of the arbitration decision -- which was baseball-style with Comcast's position favored over Dish's -- were not disclosed. However, such contract situations can center on price, duration, channel and tier placement, and considerations of most-favored nation clauses.
This isn't Dish's only dispute in the RSN arena. Fox Sports Net RSNs were off the DBS provider's air for nearly a month, starting on Oct.1,. They were restored as part of retransmission-consent deal reached with Fox on Oct. 29.
Elsewhere, its contract with MSG Network and MSG Plus expired on Oct. 1 and those channels have remained dark since then. Ironically, MSG said it would submit to arbitration as a means to reconnect with Dish.
CSN California issued this statement.concerning Dish's move.
"EchoStar's Dish Network has disregarded the FCC arbitration process and turned its back on its own customers by unilaterally dropping Comcast SportsNet California. After losing the arbitration that they themselves initiated, Dish Network decided to deny fans access to this network rather than accept the outcome of the arbitration. We hope that Dish will quickly realize that refusing to accept the arbitration decision is detrimental to consumers, and restore Comcast SportsNet California under the contract decided by the arbitrator."
For its part, Dish countered late Wednesday afternoon with these remarks: "Plain and simple, Comcast is making unreasonable demands for continued carriage of Comcast SportsNet California - demands that would cause undue harm to our customers in the form of higher rates. If we accept Comcast's onerous demands, customers nationwide will suffer and it will embolden Comcast to continue to make similar demands for its other programming properties. Because the demands by Comcast are ultimately detrimental to consumers, Dish Network is appealing to the Federal Communications Commission, as we respectfully believe that the arbitration decision was based upon significant legal and factual errors."
CSN California rebutted in kind: ""The major problem with Dish's position is that these are the very same arguments it made to an FCC arbitrator in an arbitration process that it and others requested and that it voluntarily opted into. After analyzing Dish's arguments, and Comcast SportsNet's responses, the independent and expert arbitrator rejected Dish's position and decided that the contract terms submitted by Comcast SportsNet represented the fair market value of the network. Dish's overblown and exaggerated arguments are no more accurate today than when they were rejected by the FCC arbitrator."
Dish has also set up a Web site, http://www.fairdealforyou.com/ about its standoff with CSN California.