Tribune Stations Warn Dish Subscribers of Possible Sunday Blackout

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Courtesy of Tribune Media

Tribune Media and satcaster Dish are wrangling down to the wire on a retransmission consent deal that expires Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.

Tribune stations covering 33 major markets began warning viewers with on-air crawls and other messages that the stations could go dark Sunday evening. The dispute will also affect Tribune’s WGN America cable channel, which is distributed in about 7 million Dish homes.

Dish in a statement slammed Tribune for sounding the alarm with viewers while the sides still have time to cut a deal.

“Dish is actively working to reach a deal before the contract expires, and we have offered a contract extension to Tribune to keep the channels available to customers in the event that we are unable to reach a deal by the deadline,” a spokesman said.

“We want to reach an agreement with Dish,” said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media’s senior VP of corporate relations.  “We’ve offered the same fair market rates that Dish already pays other local station groups with ABC, CBS, NBC and CW affiliates with top-rated local news, and other similarly valued cable networks. At the same time, we’re willing to accept the same rates for our local stations and WGN America that others are currently paying us. Dish has refused our offer.” 

Tribune’s 42 stations are mostly affiliated with Fox and the CW, but it also has some CBS, ABC  and NBC affils. In those markets, which include Indianapolis, New Orleans, Memphis and Richmond, Va., going dark on Sunday would mean viewers would lose access to ABC’s coverage of Game 5 of the NBA finals, NBC’s Game 6 of NHL’s Stanley Cup finals and CBS’ telecast of the Tony Awards.

Dish, which reaches about 13.9 million subscribers, has battled over contract renewals with numerous station groups and cable programming giants in recent years. In April there was much saber-rattling between Dish and Viacom before the sides set a contract renewal after an all-night marathon negotiating session.

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  1. allen says:

    With Dish Here I have dish whenever one of these blackouts happens no biggie since I h bought a $20 digital antenna years ago just hook it up and all my local channels are free why should every year they attempt to extort dish for more cash which would raise my bill

  2. Johnna Locke says:

    when you pay for the service you expect the service I know that it is not Dish that is the responsible party here and the Network here has pulled the plug but seriously all in all don’t you think that keeping the programming while the negotiations were taking place are a better tool and keeping not only the customers happy since we are the ones that ultimately will be coming up with the increase you are asking for… Think people use the thing set between your eyes for something other then holding a hat!

    • Bruce B says:

      Agreed, Johnna. I’m with Dish when these disputes come up because their fight to keep the rates they pay broadcasters for programming has the residual effect of keeping our rates lower. Almost every commercial station in the local area has gone dark at one time or another in recent years but they’ve eventually returned (except for one) and our rates are what they were three years ago. Frankly, if it weren’t for Charlie Ergun, my wife and i probably would’ve switched to Roku a year ago.

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