Carriage dispute season is heating up, with the latest battle between Sinclair and DISH probably not the last as the summer ends.
For now, though, this dispute is still amicable, with both sides agreeing to a temporary contract extension while negotiations continue.
From Mike Snider at USA Today;
More than 3 million subscribers to satellite TV provider Dish won’t lose any local channels just yet.
Dish and media company Sinclair have temporarily extended their contract, which expires Monday. Without a new deal, more than 100 of Sinclair’s local TV stations could be removed from the pay-TV service.
The stations include 97 ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates and their removal would impact 3.5 million Dish subscribers across 38% of the country, Sinclair said.
“We have agreed to a short-term extension with DISH to continue conversations,” said David Gibber, senior vice president and general counsel for Sinclair Broadcast Group, in a statement sent to USA TODAY. “We will continue to update our viewers as this develops. Sinclair stands willing to continue to negotiate in good faith and to enter into a longer extension to allow for the continued carriage of our channels to DISH’s subscribers.”
Local affiliates are obviously the bulk of the affected stations here, but Sinclair also owns or has a part of plenty of sports-related channels as well, from their Bally Sports RSNs to Marquee Network.
These disputes are always a particularly delicate balance for corporations; Sinclair is gambling their carriage fees while DISH is gambling on their subscriber base. Both sides have an interest, then, which is why things tend to work out in the end, though both sides typically ramp up the rhetoric against the other using whatever means they can to try and win viewer/subscriber sentiment.
Sports, meanwhile, tends to be the impetus for these battles, and there’s an obvious reason that late summer is when the biggest ones happen: football. The impending start of both college football and the NFL drives viewership to the point that if, say, local affiliates were to disappear for a few weeks, a lot of people might be mad. Sure, local news and programming is important too, but that’s still not going to be the main reason a lot of people would be angry enough to make a few phone calls threatening to cancel their contracts.
The temporary deal is a good sign that in the end this one is going to get worked out, although if it follows the usual cycle, there might be a few more temporary extensions and a threat of a blackout heading into week 1 of the NFL season for a long-term deal to be signed.