Dish Network has filed a lawsuit against Tribune Broadcasting, accusing the broadcaster of deliberately spreading false statements about the satcaster in the retrans fight that is now in its second week.
Tribune’s 42 stations and WGN America cabler went dark on Dish on June 12 after the sides could not come to terms on a retransmission consent deal. Both sides have pointed fingers for the shutdown and both have accused the other of refusing to agree to short-term extensions to prevent the blackout of Tribune’s CW, Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates reaching about 5 million subscribers on Dish’s platform and about 7 million subs for WGNA.
In the days leading up to the shutdown, Tribune created websites and other marketing materials warning viewers of the potential shutdown. Dish’s lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Colorado, asserts that the “dump Dish” campaign and claims that Dish ranks last in customer service among MVPD providers were disparaging and intentionally misleading. Dish’s suit claims Tribune’s actions amounted to “interference with contract and prospective economic advantage” and has damaged the company’s goodwill with its customers. Tribune’s use of the term “Dishgusting” is also discussed at length in the complaint.
“Tribune is therefore deliberately and purposefully interfering with Dish’s contracts with its subscribers as well as with Dish’s prospective economic advantage, both through current subscribers who terminate their agreement with Dish and through prospective subscribers who elect not to sign up for Dish services. Tribune’s interference with Dish’s contracts with its customers is not capable of being cured because, among other reasons, once a customer changes service providers, Dish cannot get them back. Dish has incurred and will continue to incur substantial damages as a result of these deceptive messages.”
Tribune said Tuesday the suit was “baseless” and an unnecessary distraction from the need to reach an agreement to restore Tribune signals.
“Dish has run to a courthouse to wage its campaign of delay and distraction, rather than sit down at the negotiating table and come to terms on a new contract,” said Gary Weitman, Tribune’s senior VP of corporate communications. “This lawsuit is baseless and we will respond to it in court. But it does nothing to restore service to millions of Dish subscribers in our markets across the country, which should be Dish’s primary concern.”