Dispute: Dish subscribers could be blacked out for their regional sports networks

If you are a Dish subscriber in Chicago, San Francisco, or the DC-Baltimore area, you might have a hard time watching your favorite team after tonight.

Robert Channick of the Chicago Tribune reports on a dispute between Dish and Comcast-owned regional networks in those areas.

When the Chicago Bulls host the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, speculation will run rampant over how much injury-plagued superstar Derrick Rose will play.

Hundreds of thousands of Chicago-area Dish Network subscribers may have a bigger question: Where is the game?

Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which is carrying the game, is perhaps days from being blacked out by the satellite provider in a dispute over license fees. The current agreement expires Monday and Dish Network is balking at an increase demanded by CSN.

At stake is CSN Chicago’s slate of Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox and Cubs games and its other sports programming, a local fan staple for 10 years. Dish has more than 342,000 subscribers in the Chicago area who would be affected by such a blackout, according to media research firm SNL Kagan.

The dispute also involves CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington and Baltimore area), CSN Bay Area (San Francisco-Oakland) and CSN California (Northern California and parts of Oregon and Nevada), all of which may be dropped by Dish next week.

Seems to be a wide impasse.

“Comcast SportsNet is demanding a 40 percent price increase for more than 90 percent of Dish customers in each of the affected markets, when only a small fraction of those consumers actually watch the channels,” Dish said in a statement.

Sources familiar with the negotiations say NBCUniversal, which operates the regional sports networks after being acquired by Comcast last year, may be seeking closer to a 10 percent increase across the four markets.

“We are seeking to license our regional sports networks to Dish on the same terms that other distributors have accepted for this programming,” NBCUniversal said in a statement. “Our rates are reflective of the very high value of this programming, a value that is recognized by consumers through the increased ratings for these (regional sports networks).”

If you follow local sports in those areas and have Dish, might be time to think of an alternative.


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