published Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Comcast and WRCB shed gloves in Dish Network spat

After a nearly two-month-long NBC blackout, Comcast is trying to entice Dish Network customers away from the service that has so far failed to come to a pricing agreement with the local station.

Comcast was running radio ads Friday highlighting the company's deals for those who switch to their cable system, which unlike Dish has a retransmission agreement with local NBC affiliate WRCB Channel 3.

"We did do something based on what looks like is going to be a longer-lasting situation to make sure customers knew they had some options," said Jim Weigert, local Comcast general manager. "People are more frustrated with why they can't get their local news, why they can't get all the local content."

Comcast doesn't keep specific numbers, but Weigert said his company is seeing many disgruntled Dish customers make the switch.

Two weeks ago, WRCB took off the gloves in its fight with Dish, running radio ads calling for customers to switch providers to get NBC content.

"Dish has taken away WRCB and your favorite news, weather and sports and NBC network shows," a deep, booming voice has told Chattanooga radio listeners for the past two weeks. "But Dish doesn't care. They're continuing to charge you the same monthly fee. That's just not right."

The ads began just as WRCB-TV general manager Tom Tolar said negotiations between the two companies over the rate the satellite provider should pay Channel 3 for its content were looking positive.

"The pace of the conversation has picked up on Dish's part beginning late last week," he said Thursday. "The price that we are asking of Dish and the offer that Dish is making to us, the difference between those two has narrowed."

Dish spokesman Aaron Johnson, who in the past characterized WRCB's requests as unreasonable, wouldn't comment on specifics of the deal. The two organizations have open lines of communication, he said, and Dish is involved in these kinds of talks regularly across the country without blacking out stations.

Johnson also declined to comment on WRCB's radio campaign.

Tolar said the campaign is a rebuttal to the prerecorded announcement Dish has run in lieu of NBC programming since the blackout.

"It's a pretty negative message about us," he said. "This is an opportunity for us to be proactive in reaching out to the Dish customers."

Art Brosky, a spokesman for consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, said customers are the losers in these disputes

"Everybody wants leverage over the negotiations, and you or I or whoever else watches TV will be the leverage," he said. "It often comes down to a game of chicken."

According to surveys by Scarborough Research, 107,451 Chattanoogans, or 15 percent of local viewers, are connected to Dish.

Brosky said there's no typical length for station blackouts, but pressure to come to an agreement mounts as big TV events approach. In the coming months, NBC is carrying the Superbowl and the Olympics.

Having those events blacked out would no doubt be a blow to the network's ratings and Dish's customer relations.

"It's really unfortunate," Brosky said. "I think they all realize what the endgame is. They all lose."

WDEF Channel 12 is also in negotiations with Dish, but general manager Phil Cox didn't respond to several phone calls. WTVC Channel 9 general manager Mike Costa declined to comment on the status of his station's relationship with Dish.

8
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joepulitzer said...

C'MON DISH, GIVE WRCB THE MONEY. THEY NEED IT TO GO LOCAL HD. THEY'RE THE ONLY STATION LEFT IN CHATTANOOGA WITHOUT LOCAL NEWS ETC. HD BROADCASTING EQUIPMENT.

December 10, 2011 at 7:14 a.m.
eeeeeek said...

I've had far better service and customer service from EPB the last couple of years, over comcast's crappy service for several years.

December 10, 2011 at 7:48 a.m.
Pizzaguy said...

Just tell Dish no, not ever at this point. Customers who want NBC in Chatt will move to get ya. eeeeek- Comcast does have crappy service...will switch to EPB when they get in my area.

December 10, 2011 at 8:26 a.m.
jweigert said...

Mr. or Ms. eeeeeek - sorry to hear you have had some problems in the past with Comcast. Please feel free to reach out to me with any details and/or if there is anything I can do to help at jim_weigert@cable.comcast.com.

December 10, 2011 at 8:26 a.m.
royw64 said...

I would Bet You Make A Tidy Sum From The Chattanooga Market, Why Not Give Us Seniors A Break And Reduce Our Rates.We Have Been Loyal Comcast Customers For Years.

December 10, 2011 at 10 a.m.
volzbalz said...

HAHAHA!! Switch to Comcast.... NOT IN A MILLION YEARS! I can't stand that peace of #$&% service!! They are not worth the material they offer!! If WRCB wants to charge outrageous fees, then I will watch someone else! I APPLAUD Dish Network for not giving in to their demands which would have raised my bill!! NO ONE can offer me what DISH has, with its remote access and simple way of doing business! IF WRCB continues to demand higher prices for something they deliver for free, then they deserve the ratings decline and the loss of business that comes with their hard headedness!!

Volz

December 10, 2011 at 2:46 p.m.
Billy10 said...

WRCB begs us to watch it for free with an out door antenna but wants to triple what they are charging to watch it on Dish. Where is the logic behind this?

December 10, 2011 at 6:52 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

Comcast is the best. Period. I can put up with an outage once every 6 months or so for upgrades. My brief (8 months) experience with the dish left me so frustrated that I abhor them now. It went out when the wind blew hard, when it rained, when the sun didn't shine right...whatever. And they claim to have a zillion channels but in reality, they have 100 that they play on 5 different places at the same time. So, in their mind, they have 500 channels. They didn't have some local channels and there was always some BS going on about not working out contract deals (like Viacom) and a large portion of programming would be off air. And, finally, they were WAY more expensive than the better service that I receive from Comcast. In my experience, hands down, Comcast is FAR superior to ANY dish service.

July 17, 2012 at 11:56 a.m.
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