DISH Network Puts Consumers at Risk of Losing Network and Local Community Programming
DISH Again Willing to Hold its Subscribers Hostage Rather than Reach an Agreement with Nexstar and Other Broadcasters and Content Providers at Fair Market Rates
Nexstar Media Group, Inc. announced that DISH Network subscribers in 115 markets are at risk of losing network and local community programming at 7:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, as DISH has yet to reach a new distribution agreement allowing the satellite television behemoth the right to continue to air Nexstar’s highly rated programming. Millions of viewers across the country are in danger of losing the local news, traffic, weather, sports, and entertainment programming provided by Nexstar’s 164 television stations.
Since July, Nexstar has been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable multi-year contract with DISH, offering DISH the same fair market rates it offered to other large distribution partners with whom it completed successful negotiations in 2019 and 2020. Despite generating nearly $11 billion in revenue during the first nine-months of this year and completing a billion-plus dollar acquisition of a wireless company, DISH has proposed rates that go significantly backwards and, in addition to risking the removal of Nexstar’s local broadcast stations, is threatening to also drop Nexstar’s cable network, WGN America, from its system. In terms of size, DISH’s stock market capitalization is approximately four times that of Nexstar’s, a fact that DISH TV fails to consider when making less than credible statements about Nexstar in DISH’s release yesterday.
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DISH has a long history of holding its subscribers hostage during negotiations with content providers like Nexstar and the satellite provider’s recent slew of local blackouts is creating an enormous local news draught for many communities impacting millions of viewers during the pandemic and this critical time for the country. In 2020 alone, DISH has dropped network or local community programming offered by The E.W. Scripps Company, Apollo, Mission Broadcasting, and the NFL Network.
By contrast, Nexstar routinely reaches amicable retransmission and carriage agreements with its cable, satellite and telco partners and in the month of October alone, successfully completed agreements with nearly 200 distribution partners. In addition, since acquiring Tribune Media in September 2019, Nexstar has successfully completed agreements with distribution partners covering more than 50 percent of the Company’s nationwide footprint.
In DISH’s statement regarding its intention to black out subscribers from their local and network programming and content provided by Nexstar, the satellite provider failed to acknowledge that the expiring agreement with Nexstar was entered into at the end of 2016. Therefore, for the past four years, DISH has reaped the benefit of paying significantly under market retransmission consent fees to Nexstar while consistently instituting rate increases to its subscribers. DISH also disregards the fact that as a result of the advent of reverse comp (programming and content payments made by local broadcasters such as Nexstar to the networks), Nexstar’s network affiliated programming costs continue to increase. Furthermore, Nexstar has made continual ongoing investments for the benefit of its viewers and distribution partners through expanded local news and other programming in its markets, the acquisition of costly life-saving weather equipment and a broad range of other improved services in its local communities.
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Given the exponential viewership of the Nexstar programming relative to other programming that DISH over-spends for to the detriment of its subscribers, Nexstar’s request is reasonable and consistent with the cost of such programming in similar markets.
If the companies are unable to reach an agreement, DISH subscribers in 115 Nexstar markets from Los Angeles to Charlotte will lose access to thousands of hours of vitally important local news, just as the country prepares for an explosion in new coronavirus cases and a new President prepares to take office. DISH subscribers will also lose the ability to access the NFL and college football games scheduled for the weekend of December 5-6, and all of the entertainment programming provided by Nexstar’s network partners, CBS, FOX, NBC, ABC, The CW and MyNet.
While Nexstar remains hopeful that a resolution can be reached today, should DISH fail to come to terms with Nexstar, Nexstar intends to actively educate consumers in affected markets on how they can continue to receive their favorite network programming, in-depth local news, other content and programming relevant to their communities, and critical updates in times of emergencies.
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