Good news for sports fans: Dish Network and Comcast Corp. have gone into extra innings. In a move that will temporarily avoid a blackout of Comcast SportsNet channels in five major television markets, the two companies agreed to a short-term extension Tuesday to keep the programming on the air. No details of the temporary deal were disclosed.
Dish and Comcast have been engaged in a public battle over programming fees for more than a week, with the latter launching an outright media blitz in an effort to warn viewers that the channels were in danger of being yanked from the Dish lineup. The companies’ carriage contract expired on Monday.
Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit, which operates the SportsNet channels, had set up “microsites” aimed at the five affected markets: New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Chicago, California and the Bay Area. The sites encouraged viewers to contact Dish and voice their objections, or simply switch providers altogether. On Monday, an NBCUniversal spokesperson said hundreds of thousands of viewers had taken action (sent emails, tweets or placed phone calls) through the websites.
As of Tuesday, visitors to the sites are being greeted with a brief message saying a blackout has been temporarily averted.
Fans of “The Big Bang Theory” may not be so lucky.
CBS Corp., embroiled in its own carriage dispute with Dish Network, released a statement Tuesday saying it’s had enough with the extensions and that it will yank its programming from Dish if a deal can’t be reached by Thursday at 7 p.m., EST.
“We would very much like to avoid going dark, thereby joining the more than 120 stations Dish has dropped since 2013 alone,” CBS said in a statement. “Unless agreements are reached, however, our viewers should be prepared to lose CBS from their Dish systems.”
The Dish-CBS contract expired last month, but the two sides reached a temporary extension.
Dish is also involved in a carriage dispute with Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting. Several Turner-owned networks, including CNN, the Cartoon Network and TCM, went dark for a month before being temporarily restored on Nov. 21.
Dish viewers are growing increasingly frustrated with the constant fighting and many have taken to social media threatening to cancel Dish. The Dish Network Facebook page is littered with angry comments.
Dish says it is simply fighting to prevent unfair price hikes, and it has good reason to do so. In a report earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission cited programming fees as one of the main reasons why Americans are seeing their cable bills rise so dramatically.
Some analysts say Dish has been among the most vocal pay-TV providers to push back against the fee increases, even if it is taking a public relations hit in the process.