Fox, Dish Reach Impasse in Contract Talks Hours Before Football Kick-Off

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Claire Benoist; Styling: Alma Melendez

Subscribers to the Dish satellite service found themselves without stations and sports networks owned by Fox Corporation Thursday after the two sides found themselves at loggerheads over a new carriage deal.

Dish and Fox have been haggling for weeks over new terms. And each company blamed the other for the situation.

In a statement, Fox said Dish ” elected to drop Fox networks in an effort to coerce us to agree to outrageous demands.  While we regret this is Dish/Sling’s preferred approach to negotiating, we remind our loyal viewers that the Fox services are widely available through every other major television provider.” But Dish said Fox was seeking a “double-digit” rate increase to which it could not agree. “Fox is raising prices and turning its back on its public obligation to provide channels to consumers for free,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish’s senior vice president of programming, in a statement. :It’s clear that Fox cares more about padding its bottom line than serving its viewers.”

The stations go dark just hours before Fox is set to launch the debut of a new season of “Thursday Night Football,’ one of TV’s most-watched programs.

Dish has become something of a thorn in the side of many major content companies, because it’s willing to let popular networks go dark on its service if renewal terms aren’t to the company’s liking. Under leader Charlie Ergen, Dish has waged war with everyone from AT&T’s HBO to Fox News Channel (which is negotiated in separate carriage talks) over the years.

Dish said it had offered a “short-term contract extension” to Fox that would have included a retroactive increase based upon the terms the companies might negotiate in the future. One person familiar with the talks said it was Dish that chose to pull the stations off the service.

Fox has started a promotional website, KeepFox.com, to make its cases with consumers and subscribers. Meanwhile, Dish said it would offer free digital over-the-air antennae to subscribers in affected markets – and encouraged some customers to save money by dropping local channels from Dish and getting them with the new device. The company also suggested customers try Locast, a service that provides local broadcast channels over the Internet in specific markets,.