For a while, it looked as if the vitriol had gone out of TV retrans negotiations and a new civility had prevailed.
After all, in recent months, high-profile carriage deals were being inked without subscribers having to watch their favorite channels go dark in the usual overt gamesmanship between distributors and programmers.
But in a return to the old late last week, Fox pulled 19 regional sports networks, FX and the National Geographic Channel from the Dish Network after the two sides failed to reach agreement by a midnight Sept. 30 deadline. The channels remained dark for the satellite service’s 14.3 million subscribers through the weekend.
A day later, as a result of another retrans deal, Dish dropped MSG and MSG Plus, regional sports services based in New York. Those talks broke down because Dish no longer wanted to air MSG’s Fuse music channel.
In the case of Fox, Dish accused the News Corp. division of trying to “shake down TV providers.” It said Fox was asking for fee increases of more than 50%. That could not be confirmed; Fox denied the figure.
Fox also retorted that Dish’s “tactics of promoting untrue accusations and removing programming is standard procedure for them,” adding that by not airing the regional sports nets, Dish would deprive fans of 5,000 live sporting events over the year.
While it’s always the viewers who lose in these circumstances, tThe good news for football fans, at least, is that Fox’s local TV stations that carry NFL games remain on Dish, as do Fox News and Fox Business News, at least for now. Dish’s contract with Fox TV stations expires Oct. 31 in 18 markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. Fox’s TV station deal with cable operator Cablevision expires Oct. 15.
The Fox-Dish talks stand in contrast to recent deals in which pacts were signed without viewers losing TV service. Time Warner Cable and Disney worked past a deadline to reach a new deal in September, and in August, Comcast reached an unprecedented 10-year retrans deal with CBS.
The Federal Communications Commission has been asked to consider a rule that would prohibit blackouts during retrans talks.