CBS Blackout Still Looms For Dish Customers

Dish customers in 14 markets will only be able to see the 326 Big Bang Theory reruns that air every night in syndication if no deal is reached with CBS.

Dish customers in 14 markets will only be able to see the 326 Big Bang Theory reruns that air every night in syndication if no deal is reached with CBS.

UPDATE: A blackout has been averted for the time-being, with CBS and Dish agreeing at the 11th hour to continue negotiating. So football fans with Dish will at least get through this weekend without having to worry about missing games on CBS.

In a few hours, the deadline for Dish Network and CBS to reach a deal — or to agree to extend their current arrangement while they continue hammering out details — will expire, meaning millions of satellite subscribers around the country could be without access to their local TV CBS station.

The blackout would affect stations that are owned and operated by CBS Corp. While that is only about a dozen stations, they represent some of the country’s largest markets — Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Dallas.

Time Warner Cable went up against CBS in a similar dispute in the summer of 2013, but those blackouts only really affected viewers in L.A., NYC, and Dallas. Additionally, TWC picked the wrong time of year to pick a fight, taking CBS off the air during a time of year when the network’s most desirable programming was the risible Under the Dome.

TWC caved in its standoff with CBS just as the college football and NFL seasons were to begin. But as we’re already well into both of those seasons this year, a Dish blackout of CBS owned-and-operated stations could really tick off football fans.

For example, here in Philadelphia the Eagles/Titans game on Sunday is slated to air on CBS. It’s even worse for local fans of the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins, both of whom could be heading over to a neighbor’s house to watch those two teams to play this weekend.

CBS stands to lose money and face a lot of irate advertisers if it can’t deliver ratings on these games, while Dish could risk losing customers to whatever cable company they already get their Internet service from. TWC lost hundreds of thousands of customers in the wake of its prolonged standoff with CBS.

And it may not be as simple as going out and spending a few bucks on a digital antenna for some Dish customers, as many rural satellite subscribers don’t have easy access to over-the-air signals.

That said, a CBS blackout might be too much for some Dish subscribers, who are currently without several cable channels owned by Turner Broadcasting, including CNN, HLN, and the Cartoon Network.

CBS and Dish have had an adversarial relationship for years, with the broadcaster leading the legal charge to shut down the satellite company’s “Auto Hop” DVRs, which edit out prime-time commercials for users so they can watch recorded TV without having to even fast-forward through the ad breaks.

The Auto Hop is only one of the sticking points in the Dish negotiations reports the L.A. Times. There is also the issue of digital rights to CBS content, which is incredibly important to Dish as it prepares to launch a standalone online streaming service in the coming months.

In Sept. 2013, Dish and Disney came within a few hours of a blackout that would have turned off ABC stations and — most importantly — ESPN for Dish subscribers. And shortly thereafter the two companies announced that they had reached a deal to have Disney content be part of the Dish streaming service when it launched.

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