The Dish satellite operation has over the years taken on HBO, Fox News Channel and Univision, blocking carriage for days, even weeks, until executives were satisfied with new contract terms. Now Charlie Ergen’s company is going toe to toe with another big entity: The National Football League.
“As of 9 pm ET NFL Network and NFL RedZone are no longer available to Dish and Sling TV subscribers,” the NFL said in a statement Thursday evening. “While NFL Media remains committed to negotiating an agreement and has offered terms consistent with those in place with other distributors, Dish has not agreed.” In a statement, Dish said that “We are working with the NFL to continue carrying their channels. Our goal is to reach a fair agreement, bringing NFL channels back before the season begins so that fans don’t miss any live sports action.”
The dispute comes to light just as sports leagues are scrambling to return to the field of play despite the nation’s ongoing battle with the coronavirus pandemic. The NFL has unveiled plans to mount a full 2020-2021 season, but skepticism remains that the the close-contact sport will be able to function without a significant number of players contracting the illness. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN in an interview released Thursday that “Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall.”
For football die-hards, NFL Network and RedZone are must-haves. The NFL Network offers 65 pre-season games as well as a spate of in-season contests, which include a trio of games at season’s start and two Saturday doubleheaders in the season’s 15th and 16th weeks. The cable network also offers an original morning program and pre-game coverage on Sundays. RedZone, a premium add-on service, lets fans see live look-ins on all the games being telecast Sunday afternoons on CBS and Fox, particularly when a team gets to the 20-yard line and near a scoring opportunity. The coverage is commercial free.
Dish has earned a reputation in recent years as one of the industry’s toughest negotiators, and has not had HBO or Cinemax on its service since 2018. Univision was removed from Dish for nearly nine months in 2018 and 2019. In the fall of last year, Dish cut ties with a passel of regional sports networks that had been owned by Fox but were sold by Walt Disney to Sinclair Broadcast after Fox sold the bulk of its cable and studio assets.
“As the only network 100% dedicated to coverage of America’s most popular sports league, NFL Network is committed to serving the millions of NFL fans by reaching fair distribution agreements with the pay-TV industry,” the NFL added, citing agreements it has with DirecTV, Comcast, Charter,, Verizon and Altice, among others.