CNN Parent Company Not Pleased With Dish’s Veiled Threats To Permanently Pull Channels

A few weeks back, Dish and Turner Broadcasting — parent company to CNN, HLN, Cartoon Network and others — couldn’t reach a deal on a new contract, meaning millions of Dish subscribers haven’t had access to these channels since. And last night, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen hinted that maybe it’s time for CNN and other cable mainstays to rethink how important they are.

“Twenty years ago, CNN was a must-have channel, but it’s not a top 10 network anymore,” said Ergen during a conference call on Tuesday.

Ergen added that the only way CNN jumps back to its previous level of prominence is if “they find the plane, the Malaysian plane,” referring to the network’s previous, nearly non-stop coverage of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 tragedy.

Even a decade ago, explained Ergen, it would have been a “disaster” for a pay-TV provider to lose CNN from its cable slate, but he claims that’s no longer the reality.

“The world is changing, and some people are going to change with it,” he said. “And some people are going to be fast followers, and some people are just going to figure it out after somebody tells them what they should be doing.”

This news didn’t sit well with Turner, which claims to be “disappointed” by Ergen’s “aggressive comments.”

In a statement e-mailed to Consumerist, a rep for Turner says the broadcaster has been supportive of Dish’e efforts to launch an online-only TV service and that the two parties had “found common ground on the major issues there.”

The sticking points, claim Turner, were not the kinds of thing that it believes would merit a blackout.

“So it is still unclear to us exactly what this dispute is about,” reads the statement. “We’ve been told our networks were taken down because we would not move an expiration date later in the year.”

As for the relevance of CNN and other Turner properties, the company says that their value is “reflected in the leadership positions they hold across the media landscape,” claiming the Turner stations represent five of the top 30 cable networks.

“So we honestly have no idea what Dish was talking about yesterday,” says the company. “We’ve had a long-term relationship with Dish that has been good for both of us… We stayed at the table even after Dish removed our networks from their service and we’re hopeful we can get a deal done in the near future.”

It’s highly unlikely that Dish would permanently sever its ties to CNN and Turner, but these ugly public spats are, sadly, par for the course among broadcasters and pay-TV companies.

Back in the spring DirecTV blacked out The Weather Channel over a contract dispute, and made similar claims of cultural irrelevance about the basic cable staple. Ultimately The Weather Channel returned to DirecTV’s 20 million subscribers, though with the promise of fewer reality shows.

And in 2012, Dish blacked out AMC for several months until finally relenting and paying a hefty price for it.

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