In the latest melee in the war over retransmission fees between pay TV providers and broadcasters, Sinclair Broadcast Group's 70 stations in 45 markets are set to go dark for Dish Network at midnight Wednesday.
Dish claimed Sinclair, after months of negotiations, is demanding a "massive price increase" that would force the satellite operator pay more than it pays any other broadcaster.
In a statement late Monday, Sinclair said it is continuing to negotiate with Dish on a new agreement but that it "believes significant doubt exists as to whether or not a new agreement will be reached with Dish." The companies' agreement expires 12:01 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, Aug. 16.
Dish senior vice president Dave Shull said in a statement, "We carry more than 1,800 local broadcast stations nationwide. Sinclair is asking for more than any other station anywhere in the country. This goes beyond pure corporate greed -- it's profoundly insensitive to the needs of the public."
Sinclair issued a statement Tuesday rebutting Dish's claims.
"Sinclair notes that the prices it is requesting for its extremely popular stations are substantially lower than the amounts Dish is paying for other far less popular channels it carries as a result of Dish's flawed economic model that on a relative basis compensates channels with little to no audience share more than the broadcast channels," the company said. "In addition, Sinclair notes that its negotiations with Dish, a company which is currently being sued by the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC networks as a result of Dish providing its customers with technology that allows its subscribers to delete commercials, involve matters other than pricing."
Sinclair pointed viewers to other providers that carry its TV stations, including DirecTV, at least one cable company in each market, and Verizon's FiOS or AT&T's U-verse in many markets, and also noted that viewers can get the programming free over-the-air.
During 2012 to date, retrans disputes between broadcasters and pay TV operators have resulted in the loss of 69 channels at various times to viewers, up 35% over last year, according to the American Television Alliance, a lobbying consortium formed by cable, satellite and telco TV providers.
Dish, which had 14.06 million subscribers as of the end of June, has set up a website with its side of the dispute at www.IControlMyTV.com.
Sinclair reaches approximately 26.3% of U.S. television households. With its recently announced Newport Television acquisition, Sinclair will own and operate 82 stations in 47 markets, reaching 27.3% of the country's TV households and will include 21 Fox, 19 MyNetworkTV, 15 CW, 11 ABC, 11 CBS and three NBC stations, as well as one independent and one Azteca station.
Sinclair's local net broadcast revenue, which include local time sales, retransmission fees and other broadcast revenue, was up 32.1% in the second quarter of 2012. The Baltimore-based company posted total revenue of $253.6 million and net income of $30.1 million.