CBS Is Blacked Out on Dish as Carriage Talks Hit Snag

Many  subscribers to satellite-distributor Dish can no longer see CBS programming after the two parties failed to renew a carriage contract that makes “The Big Bang Theory” and Sunday-afternoon NFL broadcasts available via the service. The snag also affects the carriage of  CBS Sports Network, Pop and the Smithsonian Channel.

“This particular dispute is yet another example of the company punishing its subscribers instead of negotiating a fair carriage deal that reflects the current marketplace,” CBS said in a statement. Dish has more than 13 million subscribers, and the blackout would affect those who live in markets services by a CBS-owned station.

In total, the disagreement means  28 local channels in 18 markets across 26 states will be off the air until the two sides can agree upon terms for a new contract.

The showdown pits a TV company keen to use its top-rated broadcast programming to eke out new deals with distributors of all sorts with a satellite company that has demonstrated a flair for hard-nosed negotiations in recent years. “CBS is attempting to tax Dish customers on programming that’s losing viewers, tax Dish customers on programming available for free over the air, and tax Dish customers for content available directly from CBS,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish executive vice president of marketing, programming and media sales, in a statement. “Our customers are clear: they don’t want to pay a CBS tax. It’s regrettable and unnecessary that CBS is bringing its greed into the homes of millions of families this Thanksgiving.”

Dish has proven willing in the past to let TV networks go dark in an effort to gain the upper hand in carriage talks.  In December of 2014, for example, an impasse between Dish and 21st Century Fox resulted in Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network being taken off the air. Dish has also itself at odds with both Time Warner’s Turner and CBS in the past. Previous talks with both resulted in brief outages of such popular cable outlets as CNN and Cartoon Network. CBS was briefly off Dish for a matter of hours in December of 2014,  but was back on the system after the two parties came to terms.

“Since 2013, Dish has dropped the signals of 29 different companies, representing nearly 400 television stations, clearly indicating that these tactics are commonplace for them,” noted CBS.

Federal regulators take a dim view of blackouts such as this one, because they put consumers in the middle of a fight between two corporations and offer them little recourse. Since 2010, subscribers to cable and satellite companies have worked through more than 800 blackouts, according to the American Television Alliance, an advocacy group that represents cable, satellite and telecommunications companies. In 2017, the group has counted 212 such events – the worst year on record, by its reckoning.

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