Fox-owned TV stations in 17 markets as well as FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Deportes have gone dark on Dish Network in the latest carriage dispute to throw a wrench into the pay-TV ecosystem.
The dispute affects Dish’s 12 million satellite households as well as millions more who subscribe to the internet-delivered bundle Sling TV, in 23 markets including Washington, D.C. It comes as the portfolio of formerly Fox-owned regional sports networks has been dark on Dish for two months due to a dispute over carriage, though those contracts are separate from the station and networks deal. Sinclair Broadcast Group, along with other investors, took control of the RSNs in a $9.6 billion deal that closed over the summer.
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For Fox, the Dish blackout comes at an inopportune moment as it kicks off its first traditional broadcast season in its newly slimmed-down form as Fox Corp. following the $71.3 billion deal with Disney. The broadcast network has started the season with strong numbers for The Masked Singer and healthy ratings for NFL broadcasts. Thursday night’s Green Bay Packers-Philadelphia Eagles broadcast can be viewed on Amazon Prime but won’t be on Dish. Fox’s primetime showcasing of the WWE, a key programming acquisition in recent months that recently expanded to FS1 with a companion show, is also about to debut.
“Dish/Sling is at it again, choosing to drop leading programming as a negotiating tactic regardless of the impact on its own customers,” a Fox Corp. spokesperson said. “Dish/Sling elected to drop Fox networks in an effort to coerce us to agree to outrageous demands. While we regret this is Dish/Sling’s preferred approach to negotiating, we remind our loyal viewers that the Fox services are widely available through every other major television provider.”
In a press release, Dish countered that Fox is “attempting to ‘force bundle’ its local channels and unrelated cable networks to get more money and gain negotiating leverage.” Andy LeCuyer, Dish’s SVP of programming, called Fox’s behavior “anti-consumer.” He said the company “is raising prices and turning its back on its public obligation to provide channels to consumers for free. It’s clear that Fox cares more about padding its bottom line than serving its viewers.”
Dish has been locked in several carriage disputes in recent months. It resolved a lengthy battle with Univision, but HBO remains dark on its platforms. The company has been working to pivot from being a pure satellite operator to also being a wireless purveyor, hoarding spectrum and swinging a deal to inherit divested assets in the T-Mobile-Sprint merger.