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Dish says Media General, which owns Channel 10, is asking for too steep an increase in retransmission fees.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
WSLS-TV (Channel 10) vanished from the television screens of Dish Network customers Tuesday, as the station's corporate owner and the satellite company failed to reach a new contract agreement by Monday's deadline.
Richmond-based Media General Inc., which owns Channel 10 as well as 17 other TV stations, and Dish have been haggling for months over a retransmission consent agreement, the contract that would allow Dish to carry Media General's stations.
Cable and satellite providers must pay a retransmission fee in order to carry local stations. Retransmission fees have climbed the past two years, as media companies seek to increase revenue streams in an age when stations face competition from multiple electronic sources, which include online programs and stations.
In June, the two sides extended their current contract for 90 days. Monday's deadline passed with an agreement still out of reach. The lack of a deal means that Dish cannot carry Media General stations in 17 markets, mostly in the Southeast. WJHL-TV (Channel 11), a CBS affiliate in Johnson City, Tenn., that serves Bristol, was also dropped by Dish.
"We understand that having a blank screen instead of their favorite programming is frustrating for Dish customers, and it's frustrating for us as well," WSLS General Manager Leesa Wilcher said in a news release.
"Media General stations have never experienced a disruption of service with any pay-TV company because of an impasse," the statement continued. "On the other hand, local stations are blacked out on DISH more than on any other pay-TV system."
Dish executives contend that Media General is asking for an exorbitant increase in retransmission fees. For more than a week, Dish has taken out full-page ads in The Roanoke Times that state, "NBC 10 Wants You To Pay 5X More For The Same Shows."
"We've attempted to reach a fair agreement via many avenues, but Media General remains immovable in its demands," Sruta Vootukuru, Dish director of programming, said in a news release. "They declined a contract extension, an offer from Dish to pay our competitors' rates, and have now refused our willingness to match rates paid to other area broadcasters. Media General is overreaching by trying to force Dish customers to pay more than their neighbors."
Previously, Vootukuru said that Dish wants to wait to strike a deal until after Media General completes its merger with New Young Broadcasting Holding Co., with whom Dish already has a long-term agreement.
Viewers with high-definition televisions or antennas can still receive WSLS over the air. The station also airs its newscasts on its website at wsls.com.
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