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Dish Customers Lose 18 TV Stations in Fee Dispute

Here we go again: In the latest blackout to hit the pay TV biz, Dish Network customers lost access to 18 television stations run by broadcasting group Media General at midnight Tuesday, after the parties couldn’t work out a deal.

The blackout of Media General stations on Dish comes as the satcaster on Monday reached a short-term extension in its deal with Disney, which will let it continue to carry ESPN, Disney Channel and other cablers plus ABC-owned stations in eight markets.

Dish — one of the most aggressive negotiators among big pay TV operators — had a dispute over retransmission-consent terms with Raycom Media last month. That resulted in an eight-day blackout of 53 TV stations. Separately, Time Warner Cable subs experienced a 32-day blackout of CBS-owned stations and cable nets this summer.

The previous deal between Dish and Media General was set to expire June 30; the companies extended that for 90 days but still failed to come to terms. Dish has about 14 million U.S. subscribers.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to reach a fair, market-based agreement with Dish,” Media General said in a statement. “Media General stations, until now, have never experienced a disruption of service with any pay-TV company because of a contract impasse.”

Dish attempted to reach a fair agreement “via many avenues, but Media General remains immovable in its demands,” director of programming Sruta Vootukuru said in a statement.

The satcaster claimed Media General rejected Dish’s offer of a short-term contract extension until Media General is acquired by Young Broadcasting, with which Dish has a long-term agreement in place. “They declined a contract extension, an offer from Dish to pay our competitors’ rates, and have now refused our willingness to match rates paid to other area broadcasters,” Vootukuru said.

Richmond, Va.-based Media General in June announced plans to be acquired by Young Broadcasting. The combined company would own or operate 31 network-affiliated television stations in 28 markets, reaching approximately 16.5 million (or 14%) of U.S. TV households.

According to Media General, local TV stations provide 35% of the total audience to pay-TV operators but receive only 7% of the total programming fees paid by these companies. That’s a consistent rallying cry from broadcasters seeking a bigger pile of cash cable and satellite operators.

The 18 stations blacked out on Dish are: WVTM (NBC) in Birmingham, Ala.; WKRG (CBS) in Mobile, Ala./Pensacola, Fla.; WFLA (NBC) in Tampa, Fla.; WJBF (ABC) in Augusta, Ga.; WRBL (CBS) in Columbus, Ga.; WSAV (NBC) in Savannah, Ga.; WHLT (CBS) in Hattiesburg, Miss.; WJTV (CBS) in Jackson, Miss.; WNCT (CBS) in Greenville, N.C.; WNCN (NBC) in Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; WYCW (CW) in Asheville, N.C.; WCMH (NBC) in Columbus, Ohio; WJAR (NBC) in Providence, R.I.; WCBD (NBC) in Charleston, S.C.; WBTW (CBS) in Florence/Myrtle Beach, S.C.; WSPA (CBS) in Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.; WJHL (CBS) in Johnson City, Tenn.; and WSLS (NBC) in Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.

SEE ALSO: CBS-Time Warner Cable Blackout Spurs D.C. Action on Retrans

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