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Dish Network And Big Ten Network Are On A Break, But Haven’t Broken Up

Yesterday I posted my thoughts on what was going on the scenes with DirectTV and Pac 12 Network on reading between the lines on how the companies were posturing. It was interesting to hear from some folks familiar with those talks who commented I was pretty much on the money. 

A large part of what's going on with the DTV stalemate with Pac 12 Networks surrounds the fact that Dish boldly stepped up as DTV was deferring. This is the equivalent to Udonis Haslem deciding to take it to the hole and scoring with 15 seconds on the shot clock in a close game while LeBron was posting up on a smaller defender thinking he was about to get the ball.

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With the addition of the Pac 12 Network, Dish suddenly became a very viable option for college football and basketball fans who lust for every game. But in a pretty damn shocking development hours before week 3 kicks off, we learn Dish will be without BTN, at least for now.

If you recall in the days leading up to the start of the season, Dish was bluffing they wouldn't do an extension with the network. They were pretty mum on their side of the negotiations as BTN seemed to outmaneuver Dish by saying they were asking for a monthly carriage fee that others had agreed upon. Removing a channel you already carry is much messier than just deciding not to carry the channel from the outset, so I was pretty confident that Dish was just bluffing.

Hours before kickoff the two sides agreed to a short term agreement to not disrupt service. Last week, the process repeated again as the channel actually did get pulled in the early hours of the morning but another short term extension was agreed upon so nobody would miss a game. Most thought that this was the last we would hear about this other than the formal announcement of a long term extension. 

Instead we were greeted with this statement below from BTN, again a mere hours before kickoff.

"As of September 14th, BTN’s distribution agreement with Dish expired despite our best efforts to finalize an agreement. We are disappointed that Dish does not see the value in the network in the same way that so many of their customers do, including Big Ten students, alumni, fans and viewers across the country who continue to pay Dish for a channel they no longer receive."

Seriously? 

This is basically like your over dramatic couple who breaks up all the time but nobody really takes it seriously. They're destined to be stuck with each other.

The Dish Game Finder app does not tell you all of the other major companies that carry BTN unfortunately.

My best guess as to what happened goes like this: 

Dish wanted special pricing because they're so big. The BTN said no and as week 1 closed in, Dish knew that the channel had too much traction to pull from customers especially on the heels of getting pummeled for dropping AMC. They basically said "Fine, we'll come up a bit in negotiations and promise to figure it out in the next week." 

But then they put on their tough guy negotiating hat again likely trying to save a 4-6 cents a month per subscriber and BTN called the bluff not willing to drop the price that they've gotten elsewhere. Very often, the larger cable and satellite companies have a "most favored nation" clause meaning that if someone signs a better deal, that pricing automatically kicks in for them as well.

Even if Dish was trying to save a couple of pennies a month per household and BTN could be considered a bit too firm in their stance, you have to realize that BTN bending here for 10% discount or whatever would mean existing contracts could roll back to lower rates and obviously you can't do that.

So last week the channel went dark for hours. You have to think BTN pulled it rather than Dish dropping it, basically calling their bluff. Whatever happened seemed to work as before most people woke up, the channel was back on. Although nobody really noticed the channel got pulled we get some tweets and I saw some posts that the channel was dark for awhile.

Another one week extension followed as Dish likely moved up a little bit in their stance and promised to get it done again.

With nothing finalized heading into today, BTN decided to go for the kill and pull the channel again. I don't think Dish really has any motivation to pull the channel as it pisses off their customers and also it was BTN who notified people of the development and not Dish. BTN likely feels Dish is being a bit too stubborn and the short term extensions are more of a stalling tactic. At this point, why not let Dish actually deal with the fallout of angry fans for one week (with a pretty mild slate of games) as conference play looms with bigger matchups on the channel. Instant leverage. 

Dish hasn't released a statement but when they do, this is basically what it will read like:

"Blah blah blah, we are all about value in entertainment and were working to get an extension done when BTN randomly freaked out and decided to pull the channel. We want to get a deal done but those crazy dudes are just INSANE! They pulled the channel! Who does that?"

Well a channel that gave you two good faith negotiating extensions does and yes, you can try to spin it, but not that many people will buy it. You just added the Pac 12 Network which has a smaller fan base and lesser traction. You can't even play the "We're not sure people want this channel," because you already added it and 72 million households have the channel AND all of your latest PR fodder is trumpeting how awesome you are for adding the Pac 12 Network.

So what's next? 

BTN waits for the phone to ring while Dish gets an earful from their customers and goes into damage control/spin mode which they're pretty used to at this point.

At some point this month, I'm confident they'll figure it out. The fact Dish gave some ground to get extensions means they're right there and 95% of this deal is basically locked in. The range they are disputing at this point has to be extremely small to the point where people would be angry at both sides knowing they missed a game because of a nickel or less a month.

This is less of an actual negotiation thing and more of BTN showing some backbone after giving Dish the benefit of the doubt twice. It's like the weaker person in a relatioship announcing it's over after they've been forgiving and understanding up until that point but have finally had enough.

Like a roller coaster couple going to all of their friends to blame each other for the breakup, you'll likely hear a lot about this in the days and weeks to come. Inevitably though, it's just really really hard to see Dish not getting an extension done soon. They're adding customers right now by having the Pac 12 Network while DTV doesn't but that gain will go right out the window if this drags out. Gaining subscribers is a big thing and for the first time in a long while, Dish can have some programming that can get people in the door. 

It's possible that similar to last week, by the time you read this, the channel could be back on although I would think BTN won't bring back the channel until the contract is signed, sealed, and delivered this time around.

Ben Koo

About Ben Koo

Copying and pasting my Twitter bio. I'm also refusing (for now) to write this in the third person. This is me - CEO of @Bloguin, GM at @AwfulAnnouncing, world's greatest chinese jew, proud Buckeye, funny dude, and sports and digital media zealot.

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