ENGLEWOOD, Colo. & IRVING, Texas—Dish Network customers lost access to Nexstar TV stations at 7 p.m. ET on Dec. 2, as the two sides were not able to reach a retransmission agreement. Dish describes this as the largest local station blackout in TV history.
The blackout took 164 local TV stations across 115 markets off Dish's service, according to Nexstar. Dish says that 5.4 million of its customers are impacted.
Unsurprisingly, both sides are pointing at the other as who is the primary culprit in the negotiation failure, each citing the other’s greed during a pandemic when local stations provide key news and entertainment.
“Nexstar is demanding over $1 billion in fees for stations that are available for free over the air,” said Brian Neylon, group president, Dish TV. “This shocking increase is the largest we have ever seen. While we work to keep subscribers’ TV bills as low as possible, Nexstar has no problem passing the buck on to American consumers. It has turned its back on its public interest obligation and is demanding significantly more money for the same programming.”
“Dish continues to propose rates that are less than fair market value for the broadcast network and local market programming content carried by Nexstar’s television stations,” Nexstar said in its release. “Dish also continues to exclude WGN America from its proposals. Since Dish proposals are not at all in line with the reality of current market rates, Nexstar is left with no choice but to reject any extension of the current agreement.”
Nexstar refers to other disputes that Dish has had in 2020, including dropping network or local programming offered by E.W. Scripps, Cox Media Group, Mission Broadcasting, the NFL Network and 21 regional sports networks.
Dish’s Neylon, meanwhile, said the company offered Nexstar an extension of the current contract to keep channels available to Dish subscribers while negotiations continue—twice—but he says that Nexstar never responded.
Both sides say they will continue to work toward a fair deal to return the Nexstar stations as soon as possible.
The American Television Alliance, in a statement reacting to the news, signaled out Nexstar as the primarily responsible part for the blackout.
“This record-breaking blackout is not only exploitative, but also an endangerment to the health and safety of countless Americans who rely on their local news for up-to-date coronavirus information,” said Jessica Kendust, ATVS spokesperson.
“We thought the ongoing global pandemic may have curbed big broadcast from leveraging consumer access during retrans negotiations. Unfortunately, two separate major blackouts this week alone have proven us wrong,” stated Kendust.
The second blackout Kendust refers to is the one between Tegna and AT&T/DirecTV, which began on Dec. 1.
Here is the full list of impacted stations in the Nexstar-Dish blackout.
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