I’ve been out of the loop a bit lately thanks to my dad’s knee replacement surgery this week, so I didn’t notice until today — when I was visiting him in the hospital — that there has been a battle brewing between Raycom — which is based here in Alabama and owns televisions stations all throughout the US — and Dish Network. And that battle hit an impasse that resulted in my local NBC affiliate, WSFA, going dark on Dish this morning.
Of course, both Raycom and Dish are pointing fingers at the other party, with WSFA (and other Raycom-owned stations, I would imagine) running heated editorials all but calling Dish the Devil, and Dish saying that it “offered to pay Raycom the same rates as our primary competitors; yet Raycom has stalled negotiations, refusing to accept that fair offer.”
Of particular interest to me is the fact that during WSFA’s editorial, Digital Content Manager Mark Wilder urged Dish customers to call 1-800-823-4929 and demand a refund or credit. Which struck me as odd because even if you have Dish’s cheapest package, all of your local channels come in a package for $5.99 per month. So I called Dish to ask how they would handle it if someone called asking for a credit or refund. As it turns out, that $5.99 covers nearly thirty channels in some markets, so what you’re paying for each channel is mere pennies.
“But what if…” I asked. The Dish representative explained to me that, for now, nothing would happen. Dish and Raycom are still in negotiations, and nothing would be settled in terms of refunds or credits until negotiations crumbled completely. She did mention that, in the past — like when Dish lost AMC for a while — customer service representatives offered credits for customers to download popular shows like The Walking Dead on Amazon or iTunes. And something similar is certainly possible if Raycom and Dish don’t get this ironed out by the time the new season starts.
Could it take that long, I asked? The answer: “We’re not putting a time limit on the negotiations, but we hope to get this resolved as quickly as possible and with minimal impact to our customers.”
All told, viewers in 36 markets are affected by this impasse, including:
Cleveland, Ohio (CBS); Panama City, Fla. (Fox); Montgomery, Ala. (NBC); Knoxville, Tenn. (Fox); Savannah, Ga. (CBS); Toledo, Ohio (CBS, Fox); Columbus, Ga. (ABC); Richmond-Petersburg, Va. (NBC); Cincinnati, Ohio (Fox); Jonesboro, Ark. (ABC); Tyler-Longview, Texas (ABC); Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss. (ABC); Paducah, Ky. (CBS); Honolulu, Hawaii (CBS and NBC); Tucson, Ariz. (CBS); Shreveport, La. (CBS); Baton Rouge, La. (CBS); Charlotte, N.C. (CBS); Charleston, S.C. (CBS); Ottumwa-Kirksville, Mo. (Fox); Birmingham, Ala. (Fox); Dothan, Ala. (Fox); West Palm Beach, Fla. (Fox); Augusta, Ga. (Fox); Lubbock, Texas (NBC); Lake Charles, La. (NBC); Huntsville-Decatur, Ala. (NBC); Albany, Ga. (NBC); Louisville, Ky. (NBC); Hattiesburg-Laurel, Miss. (NBC); Wilmington, N.C. (NBC and Fox); Evansville, Ind. (NBC); Columbia, S.C. (NBC); Jackson, Miss. (NBC); Florence-Myrtle Beach, Fla. (NBC); and Memphis, Tenn. (NBC).
Also affected are various CW and MyNetworkTV channels in five markets: Baton Rouge, La.; Cleveland, Ohio; Honolulu, Hawaii; Paducah, Ky.; and Richmond-Petersburg, Va.
What neither party is saying in the discussion is whether or not the negotiations broke down because of Dish’s controversial ad-skipping Auto Hop technology, but I strongly suspect that they did. My local NBC affiliate seems to be urging its customers strongly to switch to cable, but there’s also a lot of weasel language in the editorial. The same holds true for an editorial from KCBD posted at Engadget.