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Sinclair Expects Dish to Drop 112 of Their Local Affiliates on August 16th in Carriage Dispute

Michael King

Sinclair and Dish have been working on a new carriage agreement in advance of the end of their old deal, but Sinclair says a deal is not looking likely before it expires next Monday.

If the two sides can’t come to terms before August 16, Dish customers across the country could see 112 of Sinclair’s broadcast stations being dropped — including 102 ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox network affiliate stations, in addition to Sinclair-owned Tennis Channel.

“We have tried unsuccessfully to reach fair and customary terms with DISH Network for the renegotiation of our retransmission consent,” stated David Gibber, Sinclair’s General Counsel.

Gibber pointed out upcoming sporting events later in August and in early September that viewers would lose access to.

“Given the status of these negotiations, we feel it is important to alert DISH Network subscribers to the real risk that some of their favorite stations will no longer be available through DISH Network including their access to live, local news, popular syndicated programming, sports programming including college and NFL football, and the network programming of our ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CW affiliates in those markets,” Gibber said. “DISH subscribers are also at risk of losing Tennis Channel. With this loss, tennis fans will not be able to see wall-to-wall coverage of the Western & Southern Open from Cincinnati, OH in the run-up to the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open.”

After Sinclair purchased the former Fox Sports regional sports networks in mid-2019, Dish and Sling TV dropped the RSNs from their lineups, and to date, have not returned them.

On their Q3 2020 Earnings Call, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said of local affiliate carriage, “I’m empathetic to the local broadcaster because they’re getting squeezed from the networks themselves with reverse retrans and declining viewership. And on the other hand, the marketplace is saying we can’t pay more for your channel. And that’s where partnership really works, where you look at it and say, how do we both get better, but that’s not usually the way broadcasting contracts go or programming contracts go, which is a shame.”

If they do lose Sinclair locals, expect Dish to lean heavily on donation-based streaming service Locast. They have integrated the channels into the Grid Guide on both streaming service, Sling TV, which never had Sinclair locals, and their Dish Hopper set-top box.

Late last year, Dish customers were without Nexstar locals in 120 markets during a dispute with that company. The channels returned after a three-week blackout.

In September 2019, AT&T and Sinclair had a pro-longed multi-month carriage dispute – but the channels were never officially dropped from DirecTV. Instead, the two sides continued to reach temporary extensions while they negotiated a new deal to carry Sinclair locals and Fox Sports RSNs.

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