Nearly 4M Dish subcribers in 18 cities blacked out from CBS; Charter interruption could be next

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Nearly 4 million Dish Network subscribers in 18 cities are blacked out from the CBS Television Network, with the satellite operator and programmer unable to come to terms on a new licensing deal.

Nearly 4 million Dish Network subscribers in 18 cities are blacked out from the CBS Television Network, with the satellite operator and programmer unable to come to terms on a new licensing deal.

The numbers, which come courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, frame the scope of the programming interruption, with 400,000 L.A. pay TV homes alone set to be blacked out from CBS coverage of college and pro football over the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Despite its fast-eroding core satellite TV business, Dish is still the fourth largest pay-TV operator in the U.S., serving just over 13.2 million customers. The CBS blackout also impacts millions of Dish customers in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Miami, San Francisco, Denver and other major U.S. cities served by CBS owned and operated stations.

These customers also lack access to other CBS Corp. outlets, including Showtime, CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian. 

RELATED: Dish and CBS Corp. renewal talks quickly devolve into blackout

The interruption began at 2 p.m. EST Monday, upon the expiration of a retransmission deal signed in December 2014. A 12-hour CBS blackout on Dish also preceded that incumbent deal. 

“We thought we were making good progress,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish’s executive VP of marketing, programming and media sales, to the Times. “But then late [Monday] night, CBS stopped talking and wouldn’t accept our offer for an extension.”

Dish has been messaging its customers, offering free over-the-air antennas to “qualified” subscribers and offering to lop $10 off the bill of any customer who wants to ditch the Big Four broadcasters altogether. 

Dish is also familiarizing its customers with boasts made in recent CBS Corp. earnings reports, in which CBS officials tout the fact that retrans revenue will grow from $250 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion by 2020. 

For its part, CBS has told Dish subscribers just how many of the satellite operator’s renewal talks with programmers have ended in blackout in recent years. (It’s a lot.)

Meanwhile, as noted in Multichannel News, Telsey Advisory Group media analyst Tom Eagan is warning investors that CBS and Charter Communications could be in for a tough negotiation, as well. 

Through the corporate shell game it established when it purchased Time Warner Cable last year, Charter was able to extend the expiration of its CBS contract from December 31 of this year to April 1 (the expiration of the TWC contract). However, as Eagan noted, Charter will not have the leverage associated with the NFL season. For example, CBS will endure a ratings hit Thursday if its presentation of the NFL’s Cowboys-vs.-Chargers game isn’t available to about 4 million Dish subscribers, so there’s more incentive to make a deal with Dish. 

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