Fox News Blacked Out On Dish Network In Latest Contract Fight

It’s a rough year to be a Dish subscriber: networks just keep falling out of the lineup as the satellite TV company ends up in contract disputes with channel after channel. The latest argument has Fox News and Fox Business blacked out on Dish, and the fight looks like it’s just getting started.

After weeks of negotiations, Dish and Fox were unable to agree on a continued carriage contract and the two Fox networks left the lineup for 14 million Dish subscribers over the weekend.

Network carriage disputes always come with plenty of saber-rattling from both sides. Pay TV companies claim they are on the side of the consumer and on the side of low prices, blaming networks for their greedy, greedy demands. Networks, on the other hand, blame distributors for their shameless penny-pinching, miserly ways that will drive content producers just seeking a fair shake to the poorhouse.

This one is particularly ugly. According to the Associated Press, Dish claims that Fox blocked their access to the networks, while Fox maintains that Dish shut them down ten minutes before the contract technically expired.

Dish naturally claims that Fox is the unreasonable party. “Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract,” DISH executive Warren Schlichting said in a statement. “It’s like we’re about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well.”

Fox, of course, claims the opposite, and says that DISH shut down Fox News “in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations.” The statement from Fox News executive Tim Carry says that, “It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider,” and adds, “Hopefully they will vote with their hard earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately.”

Networks frequently try to weaponize their fan bases in a blackout, using them as leverage in the dispute. If tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers can be mobilized to call, e-mail, or otherwise badger their cable/satellite company — or to cancel service altogether — that might give the network negotiators an edge that lets them make the new contract more to their liking.

Fox News has a particularly passionate and vocal core cadre of loyal viewers. To rally those viewers, the network has launched a website that not only urges all those viewers to call Dish and yell at them (“Don’t let DISH control the news you watch”), but that also provides a tool that looks up alternate pay TV providers by ZIP code so disgruntled fans can more easily switch their service.

Perhaps most harmful to Dish is that this is the third major contract dispute the satellite provider has had in just the past few months. Earlier this month, Dish and CBS barely eked out an agreement after a 12-hour blackout that followed weeks of short-term contract extensions and blackout threats. And that dispute came on the heels of a month-long blackout of Turner networks, including CNN and Cartoon Network.

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