Barring a last-minute agreement, Dish Network subscribers in Utah are about to lose a couple more channels from their lineup — and this time it’s local.
The satellite company’s agreement to carry KUTV, KMYU and 72 other Sinclair Broadcast Group stations around the country expires at midnight on Wednesday, Aug. 15, and there are indications that this could be a protracted dispute.
"Obviously, we hope they’ll get something put together relatively quickly," said Kent Crawford, general manager of KUTV/KMYU. "But this is a Sinclair decision."
He also pointed out that Dish subscribers can still receive KUTV’s signal over the air by hooking up an antenna. "We still provide a free, over-the-air signal," Crawford said.
The two sides can’t even agree on what they’re fighting about. According to Dish, Sinclair is asking for "a massive price increase" that is "more than any other station anywhere in the country."
According to Sinclair, "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."
Dish charged that Sinclair’s demands would drive up consumer prices and "goes beyond corporate greed — it’s profoundly insensitive to the needs of the public."
Sinclair shot back, pointing out that its dispute is "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. And that its own disputes involves "matters other than pricing."
That’s another indication this may not be resolved anytime soon. The broadcasters are suing Dish for copyright infringement and breach of contract over its Hopper DVR, which automatically skips over advertising in recorded network programming.
Dish has a history of this kind of dispute. It dropped AMC Networks channels in June — there’s no end in sight for that — and has been involved in multiple nasty negotiations with various station groups and cable networks.
And Sinclair has a reputation for playing hardball in retransmission consent negotiations with cable and satellite providers.
Sinclair owns and operates 74 television stations in 45 markets across the country, which reach more than 26 percent of American viewers. Dish has about 14 million subscribers.
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