published Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Dish Network dispute resolved; WDEF stays on the air

Three Dish Network satellite dishes sit atop an apartment house.
Three Dish Network satellite dishes sit atop an apartment house.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A last-minute contract agreement has saved Dish Network subscribers from missing the Georgia-Tennessee football game today on local CBS affiliate WDEF-TV.

Morris Network and Dish Network have resolved a contract dispute that threatened to cut off Dish subscribers from Channel 12, Morris Network president Dean Hinson said.

"We've resolved the situation and there will be no interruption to service with Dish," he said. "There will be football this weekend if you're on Dish Network."

The two companies agreed on the new contract Thursday night, Hinson said. The deadline to resolve the dispute was Friday at 7 p.m.

Dish claimed earlier that WDEF-TV was trying to triple its rates to carry the CBS affiliate on the satellite network. But neither side provided details of the final agreement.

Dish serves about 104,500 customers in the Chattanooga market, according to research firm Scarborough. That's slightly less than DirecTV, which has about 107,000 Scenic City customers. Both have had their share of contract disputes.

Dish almost routinely threatens to drop channels when re-negotiating contracts and prices, Times Free Press archives show.

A 2010 dispute between Fox Networks and Dish pulled some Fox channels off air. And WRCB-TV Channel 3 was blacked out for seven weeks in late 2011 during a price battle with Dish.

"The negotiations with Dish are always very difficult," said Tom Tolar, general manager of WRCB. "I'm guessing we experienced the same kind of things that WDEF experienced. In all the years we've been doing this -- and we've been doing it a long time -- we've never been taken off the system. The only one we've ever been taken off of is Dish."

Last year, separate disputes between Sinclair Broadcast Group and both Dish and DirecTV nearly put local ABC affiliate WTVC-TV Channel 9 in the black in February and August.

Chattanooga TV-viewers seem, in large part, frustrated but underwhelmed by the disputes.

"I am not a Dish customer but I did have Direct TV and went through the same thing," Gloria Revis wrote on the Times Free Press Facebook page. "I think they just like to get the public all in a tizzy over nothing."

Facebook commenter Larry Henry Jr. agreed.

"These contract disputes over local channels is asinine," he wrote. "Just another reason to push more to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu with a Roku."

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