Whether or not one side or the other is right or wrong, the fact of the matter is Dish Network subscribers and especially those bound into contracts are the true hostages in the latest contract dispute. On Saturday, March 4 at midnight the contract between Dish Network and LIN Media - WIVB-TV (CBS) and WNLO-TV (CW) - expired and since has gone black for Dish customers.
Dish Network Corporate Communications Manager Francie Bauer updated the negotiation process as much as she could on Monday.
"We negotiated all weekend with them and are continuing to negotiate with them even today," Bauer said. "Unfortunately, I don't have anything beyond that."
According to Senior Vice President of Programming at Dish Network, Dave Shull, LIN Media had increased its contract demands by more than 175 percent days before the expiration of the contract.
"It's unfortunate that LIN Media, a corporate media conglomerate, pulled its channels down at midnight, holding viewers in 17 markets across the nation hostage while attempting to coerce DISH Network to submit to outrageous demands," Shull stated. "Even more disappointing is the fact that LIN Media didn't even make an effort to keep negotiating during the final hours and failed to respond despite our numerous attempts to reach them. LIN Media also refused to grant the contract extension DISH Network proposed. DISH Network offered LIN Media a fee increase comparable to market rates already agreed to with more than 1,000 other TV stations."
Phone calls were made to LIN Media on Monday but customer service had no phone number for a representative to offer, the only phone number made available by LIN was 1-800-333-DISH.
"Please know that we tried hard to reach an agreement with DISH and we are disappointed in the outcome of our negotiations, especially since we have successfully reached deals with every major cable, satellite and telecommunications company that recognizes our fair market value," LIN Media announced in a recent statement. "Without fair and equitable treatment, local TV stations will not be able to continue to provide top quality news, sports, entertainment, and other local programming that is most important to you.
"We will continue to negotiate with DISH. Unfortunately, we do not know if, or when, we will reach an agreement."
The Buffalo television stations owned, operated, or serviced by LIN Media - WIVB-TV (CBS) and WNLO-TV (CW) provide popular programs such as: the CIS series, (formerly) Two and a Half Men, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Price as Right, NFL football, and the NCAA March Madness tournament on CBS; and The Vampire Diaries, America's Next Top Model, and Gossip Girl on the CW.
The latest dispute between Dish and a broadcaster is the second to affect western New Yorkers directly. In October of 2010, Dish and the Madison Square Garden Network (MSG) failed to reach a contract agreement. Fans of the Buffalo Sabres or New York Knicks have been blacked out since that time and no agreement appears to be on the horizon.
"MSG ... we don't really have any updates on MSG, unfortunately," Bauer said. "It certainly is something we want to get back up on the air as soon as possible but I can't comment on anything because nothing has really happened as of late. There hasn't been any movement, but we're still hopeful that we can eventually reach a fair agreement with them."
This isn't the first time that LIN has been unable to reach an agreement with a carrier prior to the expiration of its contract. On October 3, 2008, LIN TV's stations were dropped from Time Warner Cable, due to a dispute over "retransmission fees." On October 29, 2008, however, LIN TV and Time Warner Cable reached an agreement and many of the LIN stations were returned to cable systems across the United States. Dish subscribers can only hope an agreement is reached as fast this time.
The American Television Alliance (ATVA) released a statement about the recent dispute on Saturday.
"This comes less than 48 hours after the fcc approved initiation of a rulemaking "to protect consumers from the disruptive impact of broadcaster blackouts," the ATVA stated. "These bullying tactics will continue until the fcc reforms outdated rules and balances the scales that today give broadcasters numerous advantages."
The "fair value" LIN is asking for amounts to what they state is pennies a day per station, per Dish subscriber.
"Suffice to say, the pennies per day that lin media is using is a bit misleading, in the sense that what they're asking for actually equates to millions more dollars per month, over what we currently pay them," bauer said. "The pennies per day i think misrepresents what the rate is."
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