DISH, Sinclair avert local TV blackouts--for now

Michelle Clancy | 17-08-2012

DISH Network and Sinclair Broadcast have averted a blackout of 70 local TV stations in 45 markets thanks to a tentative deal. Sinclair agreed to a two-week extension before blackouts take effect so that the two can work out the final terms.

"DISH is pleased to tell our customers that we have reached an agreement in principle with Sinclair Broadcast Group, allowing Dish to continue offering Sinclair's local channels to our customers," the satellite operator said in a statement early Thursday morning. "We thank our customers for their patience as we work to offer them the best content at the best value."
The previous retransmission-consent agreement between DISH and Sinclair ran out at midnight on Wednesday. In the lead-up to that, Sinclair had said that "significant doubt exists as to whether or not a new agreement will be reached with DISH."
DISH said that Sinclair was simply asking too much. "We carry more than 1,800 local broadcast stations nationwide. Sinclair is asking for more than any other station anywhere in the country," said DISH Senior Vice President Dave Shull. "This goes beyond pure corporate greed -- it's profoundly insensitive to the needs of the public."
Pshaw, said Sinclair. Its local TV channels feeds are among the most popular for subscribers, it said, and this should claim a premium. The "prices Sinclair is requesting for its extremely popular stations are substantially lower than the amounts DISH is paying for other far less popular channels it carries," Sinclair said in a statement. DISH has a "flawed economic model that on a relative basis compensates channels with little to no audience share more than the broadcast channels," it added.
It also said that DISH's Auto Hopper commercial-skipping service was part of the issue as well.
DISH is the third-largest pay-TV operator in the United States, with 14.06 million subscribers. Sinclair reaches 26 percent of U.S. television households.