Dish customers may be blocked from local TV programs

MarketwireOctober 5, 2012 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Gannett Broadcasting Inc., which owns television station WMAZ in Macon, is threatening to block Dish customers’ access to Gannett’s programming unless Dish agrees to pay massive penalties or stop its customers from using Dish’s new commercial-skipping AutoHop feature.

If Gannett allows the current retransmission consent agreement to expire, Dish customers in 19 cities including Macon, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Denver, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Phoenix and Sacramento would lose various ABC, CBS and NBC-affiliated stations. Also in jeopardy are the MyNetwork TV channels in Atlanta and Denver. The consent expires at 2 a.m. Monday, after which the signals may go dark.

Gannett’s demands reportedly translates into more than a 300-percent rate increase, which would likely result in higher monthly fees for consumers.

Additionally, Gannett has demanded that Dish eliminate customer-enabled commercial-skipping technology found on its Hopper Whole-Home DVRs or pay a massive penalty.

Dish apparently has offered to pay Gannett market rates, including an increase of more than 200 percent above current rates, and has offered to extend the contract to continue to deliver programming to Dish customers during ongoing negotiations. Gannett has refused.

“Dish has delivered innovation to improve upon technology that has been in the viewers’ hands for decades. Viewers have been skipping commercials in the privacy of their own homes for generations,” said Dave Shull, Dish senior vice president of programming. “The TV industry should be doing just that, delivering innovation and viewer control. Gannett is stifling innovation and crushing customer choice and control. That’s insulting to our subscribers and we won’t stand for it.”

Dish carries nearly 1,700 local channels across the country, and Dish has negotiated new agreements with broadcasters on the rights to carry hundreds of channels this year alone.

Other cities that could be affected by a blockage include St. Louis; Little Rock, Ark.; Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla.; Greensboro, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; and Knoxville, Tenn.

Dish’s “AutoHop” feature is offered with the Hopper’s exclusive PrimeTime Anytime capability, which allows viewers to choose to record the primetime TV programming on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC -- the networks that deliver some of the most popular shows during primetime.

A viewer can watch a show commercial-free starting the day after a show has been recorded.

Dish Network Corp., through its subsidiary Dish Network LLC, provides about 14.061 million satellite TV customers, as of June 30.

Telegraph writer Linda S. Morris contributed to this report.

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