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Dish Hit With 53-Station Blackout in Fight With Raycom

Local stations go dark for satcaster in 36 markets in latest clash over retransmission payments

In the latest blowup over broadcast TV retransmission fees, Dish Network customers in 36 markets lost access to 53 television stations owned by Raycom Media after the companies failed to reach a new deal by midnight Wednesday.

Satcaster claims Raycom is demanding a fourfold increase in retrans payments over their previous deal, which expired at midnight Eastern on July 31. The Montgomery, Ala.-based broadcaster has said it is asking Dish for retrans fees comparable to what other pay-TV providers pay it.

The Dish-Raycom dispute resulted in a blackout of various ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates nationwide, from Florida to Hawaii.

“We are ready to listen to a fair proposal from Raycom to bring this impasse to a swift end,” Sruta Vootukuru, Dish director of programming, said in a statement released early Thursday morning. “Unfortunately, the broadcaster has not been willing to pursue an agreement that would have avoided this disruption of service to our customers and Raycom viewers.”

Time Warner Cable and CBS are currently locked in a similar dispute, concerning 13 stations owned and operated by the Eye, including CBS channels in New York, L.A. and Dallas, TW Cable actually briefly removed CBS channels earlier this week, before halting the blackout after CBS came back to the negotiating table. Companies have extended their previous contract until Friday, Aug. 2.

Raycom’s 53 stations in 18 states cover 12.6% of U.S. TV households, according to the broadcaster. The stations are located in markets including  Cincinnati (Fox); Honolulu (CBS and NBC); Cleveland, Ohio (CBS); Knoxville, Tenn. (Fox); Toledo, Ohio (CBS, Fox); Richmond-Petersburg, Va. (NBC); Tucson, Ariz. (CBS); Charlotte, N.C. (CBS); Lubbock, Texas (NBC); Wilmington, N.C. (NBC and Fox); and Memphis, Tenn. (NBC).

Retrans payments in the U.S. will reach $3 billion in 2013, doubling to $6 billion by 2018, according to estimates by research firm SNL Kagan. Under federal law, TV stations are allowed to demand either payment from pay TV operators for their channels or opt for “must carry,” which ensures distribution but involves no compensation.

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