Dish Network has stopped carrying Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, stations owned by 21st Century Fox, as the two companies go head to head in a he-said-she-said about who is responsible for the blackout.
In a statement, Dish says its 14 million customers all over the United States will not have access to the two channels because Fox blocked access to these channels to use them as leverage to demand for redistribution fees for other sports and entertainment channels that are three times the regular fees charged by other broadcasters. It is unclear what these other channels are, although Dish could be referring to Fox Sports 1 and FXX.
"It's like we're about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well," says Dish senior vice president of programming Warren Schlichting. "Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract."
Dish also says Fox pulled out the two channels even after the satellite pay TV offered a short-term agreement to keep the two channels even as the two companies work out a long-term solution.
However, Fox fired back with the accusations, saying Dish is using its subscribers as its "pawns" to "intimidate and sway our negotiations." Fox News Channel executive vice president Tim Carry says the distribution fees demanded by the broadcasting company are "customary" in a Fox distribution negotiation and it has similar agreements with other TV providers.
"Fox News Channel did not disconnect Dish, rather, Dish prematurely ceased distribution of Fox News in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations," Carry says. "It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider. Hopefully they will vote with their hard-earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately."
Along with its statement, Fox revealed a new website, keepfoxnews.com, which allows visitors to find other pay TV providers offering Fox News and Fox Business by entering their zip code. The website also presents a toll-free number that directs them to Dish's customer service hotline and sends them directly to the disconnect department.
Dish has countered with its own website, dishstandsforyou.com, where it says switching to other pay TV providers is not the answer because it only encourages broadcasting companies such as Fox to demand higher distribution costs that will ultimately be passed on to consumers.
"This is the third time in as many months that Dish customers have suffered through a blackout due to Dish intransigence," says Carry. "Dish's record speaks for itself, and makes its rhetoric about 'reasonable' agreements ring hollow."
Earlier this month, CBS went black for several hours over similar disagreements in distribution fees, but the channels affected came back up shortly as Dish and CBS decided to a multi-year carriage contract that involved limited use of Dish's AutoHop commercial-skipping technology and Dish's access to CBS' Showtime Anytime streaming service.
Dish also had similar problems with Turner, with several channels including CNN and Cartoon Network going black before both companies agreed on a short-term contract while they come up with a long-term solution.