Thanksgiving football-watching traditions may have to change a few households this year. Due to Dish Network and CBS being unable to reach a carriage agreement, CBS is no longer available to millions of Dish subscribers across America.
Dish customers are not able to view 28 local CBS channels in 18 markets across 26 states. The blackout affects cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, Tampa, Seattle, Minneapolis, Detroit, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.
At the heart of the dispute is how much money Dish is willing to pay CBS to retransmit the network’s signal. Video distributors such as Dish have to pay a per-subscriber carriage fee for the right to broadcast networks such as CBS. Those fees are sometimes passed down to the pay-TV subscribers in higher subscription costs. Dish believes CBS is trying to get its customers to pay a “CBS tax.”
“CBS is attempting to tax Dish customers on programming that’s losing viewers, tax Dish customers on programming available for free over the air, and tax Dish customers for content available directly from CBS,” Warren Schlichting, Dish Executive Vice President Marketing, Programming and Media Sales, said in a statement.
CBS debuted its own subscription service, CBS All Access, in 2014, offering live and on-demand access to its robust library. You also can watch CBS for free by using a digital antenna. These alternatives make CBS widely available, without the need for a pay-TV subscription, which Dish has clearly taken issue with during these negotiations. Dish’s statement also pointed out that viewership data “reveals that on CBS Sports Network, Pop and Smithsonian Channel, average viewership is down more than 10 percent in the past three years.”
In a statement, CBS asserted Dish’s failure to negotiate “a fair carriage deal that reflects the current marketplace,” is a common business practice for the company. “Since 2013, Dish has dropped the signals of 29 different companies, representing nearly 400 television stations, clearly indicating that these tactics are commonplace for them.”
Dish has been involved in numerous TV blackouts over the last four years, including losing 129 Sinclair Broadcast Group stations in August 2015, the biggest TV blackout ever. This also isn’t the first time CBS has vanished for millions of Dish subscribers. CBS went dark for many Dish subscribers in the same markets in December 2014 when the two sides couldn’t reach a carriage agreement. Luckily, Dish and CBS reached a multi-year agreement 12 hours after the blackout.
In the meantime, Dish stated it plans to provide subscribers in the affected markets with digital over-the-air antennas at no extra cost.