Tribune Media Co. TV Stations Blacked Out On Dish Network In 33 Markets Amid Fee Dispute

Image courtesy of Jim Ellwanger

Dish Network subscribers who like watching Tribune Media Co. TV stations or the WGN America cable channel are having to go without right now, as the provider is locked in yet another contract dispute that’s keeping those stations off the air.

Tribune Media says its 42 television stations and the WGN America cable channel went dark late Sunday for about five million Dish subscribers across 34 states and Washington, D.C., The Wall Street Journal reports. Around seven million can’t get the WGN America network.

The two sides are battling over a new distribution agreement: Tribune is seeking fees for carrying its stations and WGN America, but Dish says the demands are too high. The company said the price increase for Tribune’s local stations is unreasonable, as those stations are available free with an antenna.

And the price hike for WGN America is also exorbitant, Dish says, because the channel doesn’t carry Chicago Cubs games anymore and its ratings are down in Dish homes.

“Tribune is using local viewers as leverage to raise rates for WGN America—a channel that is in decline,” said Warren Schlichting, executive vice president of programming for Dish in a statement. “Actions like Tribune’s are what drive price increases and feed customer frustration for our industry.”

Dish says it will offer free over-the-air antennae to customers affected by the outage who still want to watch Tribune TV stations.

Tribune doesn’t get what the brouhaha is about — after all, this deal is the same one Tribune has for other pay-TV distributors, the company says.

“We want to reach an agreement, just as we have with every one of our other cable, satellite and telco distributors, but Dish refuses to reach an agreement based on fair-market value,” said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media’s senior vice president for corporate relations in a statement (via Variety). “We want to keep servicing our local communities and we have repeatedly offered Dish a lengthy extension to continue negotiations—unfortunately, Dish rejected these offers.”

This is not the first time we’ve had to report on Dish blackouts and distribution fees: Dish and Sinclair Broadcasting Group had a brief spat last summer that led to channels briefly going dark in 36 states

Tribune TV Stations Blacked Out on Dish Network Over Dispute [The Wall Street Journal]