Dish, Sinclair End Broadcast Network Blackout… For Now, At Least

Dish’s latest contract fight with the networks it airs has wrapped up much more quickly than usual: less than a day after nearly 130 Sinclair channels went dark on the satellite provider, the local channels are back on in 5 million subscribers’ homes. At least, for now.

The blackout started yesterday, when Dish Network and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group failed to come to an agreement on their retransmission terms. Sinclair owns hundreds of local broadcast network affiliates around the country, which went dark for viewers in 36 states and DC when the negotiation deadline came and went with no contract signed.

As these fights do, this one quickly got ugly, with Dish out and swinging early with press releases about how awful Sinclair was being, and Sinclair responding that Dish was being completely unreasonable.

However, this fight also came with an immediate appeal to authority: while they were shooting out press releases about Sinclair, Dish also filed a complaint to the FCC about the broadcaster’s behavior, calling for regulators to intervene.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler immediately called for the relevant bureau at the commission to have an emergency meeting to get Dish and Sinclair sorted out post-haste, and that seems to have caused the two parties to calm down and retreat to their corners. A few hours after Wheeler’s statement, Dish and Sinclair announced the channels were coming back online.

“We are grateful for the FCC’s work on behalf of consumers to actively broker a productive path forward,” Jeff Blum, Dish senior vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement.

Wheeler congratulated the two on coming to at least temporary terms, saying in a statement, “On behalf of more than 5 million consumers nationwide, I am pleased DISH and Sinclair have agreed to end one of the largest blackouts in history and extend their negotiations.”

He also added a reminder to both companies that they should stick with the talks, saying, “The FCC will remain vigilant while the negotiations continue.”

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