by Lisa de Moraes, Deadline.com
Dish Network customers have now passed the one-week mark minus access to Fox News Channel or Fox Business Channel, after those networks’ parent company could not reach agreement with the satellite TV provider on a new distribution deal. Finger pointing between 21st Century Fox and Dish broke out in the middle of the night on December 20, as carriage talks between the two failed to produce a deal by midnight, resulting in Fox News and Fox Business no longer being available on Dish.
Dish has updated its Facebook page with a video message from chairman Charlie Ergen, in which he says that, during the talks about the two news channels, Fox demanded a “surcharge” that tripled rates on an “unrelated, less popular” Fox channel on which Dish already had a carriage agreement that was not set to expire “for some time.”
“The result of this tactic is Fox News became hostage to an unrelated channel, where the price increase was not justified by our existing contract, or its viewership,” Ergen says in the video. “Ironically, Fox News would be first to decry this type of deal making,” he continues. “Imagine if your federal taxes were suddenly increased dramatically, or you were taxed in a state you did not live in. There was nothing about this extortion attempt that was fair – or balanced. Rather, it was greedy, arrogant, and disrespectful to you, their loyal viewer,” he said, noting Dish customers would ultimately be footing the bill for those “outrageous demands.”
Friday, Fox put this message up on its Facebook page:
“DISH customers: Since DISH dropped Fox News, DISH has focused on shifting blame instead of getting Fox News back on the air. But the facts speak for themselves – DISH has blocked more than 10 channels in the last six months alone. We continue to work on resolving this situation, but until DISH is responsive, we are unable to update you on when Fox News will be available. Go tohttp://www.KeepFoxNews.com to get the latest and to find alternate providers in your area where you can get Fox News.
Meanwhile, customers would seem to be getting restless, looking across Dish’s Facebook page:
“All done. Just listened to your rant. Switching to another carrier! I pay for a channel I want to watch it!!” complained one post.
“Dish thank you for doing America a favor and taking Fox News out of your channel lineup,” countered another.
Back at midnight on December 20, Fox News Channel EVP Distribution Tim Carry said, “It is disappointing that, after nearly two decades without a blackout, Fox News Channel has been blocked by Dish Network,” adding,”This is the third time in as many months that Dish customers have suffered through a blackout due to Dish intransigence.” (He was referencing two earlier Dish disputes, one of which led to a blackout for Dish customers of CBS, and another in which Dish customers lost access to Turner Broadcasting channels, including CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, and Turner Classic Movies.)
Countered Dish: “Tonight, 21st Century Fox, Inc. blocked Dish customer access to Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, as the media conglomerate introduced other channels into negotiations despite those channels not being included in the contract up for renewal.” Added Dish SVP Programming Warren Schlichting, “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. 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.”
The next morning Carry fired back that Fox did not try to force Dish to buy a car along with a house: “I love the whole ‘real estate and car’ thing – I thought that was pretty brilliant, but pretty inaccurate. That’s not what we’re asking. What [Dish is] looking at is a mansion, and you want to buy it like it’s a double lot.”
Since then, Fox’s focus has been on getting FNC fans switched from Dish to another service ASAP, using Facebook to reach Dish’s 14 million subscribers with a new account it set up, called KeepFoxNews.com.
The 888 phone line Fox set up when it launched its campaign alerting Dish customers they might lose access to Fox News Channel reports it has received nearly 179,000 calls since launch and nearly 55,000 since the two channels were dropped. Of the Dish customers who’ve contacted the phone number, nearly 118,000 have been transferred to Dish to drop the provider, more than 31,000 of them since the channels were dropped.
“Closing on a house and the realtor is trying to make you buy a car” isn’t that what you force us to do!!!!” one angry Dish customer says on that company’s Facebook page. “All I want to watch is FOX, and you make me buy a zillion other crap channels that I don’t want!!!!!! Hard to swallow you’re own medicine isn’t it Charlie!!!! I’m done!!!”