Dish cuts NBC from TV lineup

Dish cuts NBC from TV lineup

November 3rd, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

About 50,000 area Dish Network subscribers are making due without "The Today Show," "The Office" and every other NBC program because of a multimillion dollar contract dispute.

WRCB-TV officials are asking for a 288 percent carrying fee increase from Dish Network, an increase Dish calls outrageous, but WRCB says is the going rate.

The previous agreement between the companies recently expired, leaving customers with static while the two corporations duke out their next multiyear contract.

"It's terrible," said Bradon Perry, whose daily "Days of our Lives" viewing has been halted. "I have to watch 'General Hospital.'"

WRCB-TV could feel a pinch with the blackout. Throughout most of the month, television ratings are collected and used to sell advertising until the next round of data is collected in February.

"It was not our desire to have Dish subscribers be without us. Literally, if Dish wants to today, they can put us back on their system," said Tom Tolar, general manager of WRCB-TV. "This is the first time that I have ever had a cable company or a satellite company remove us from their services, in my mind, essentially as a negotiating ploy."

WRCB's website features a letter addressed to Dish Network officials giving permission for the satellite provider to extend the terms of their recently expired agreement until the end of the month. That would allow Dish to air NBC programing in the area until Nov. 30 or until a new agreement is reached, but Dish officials were unhappy with the terms of the agreement.

For now, local Dish subscribers will have to wait for an agreement to be reached. Officials on both sides were unsure when that could be, and both called the other side's position totally unreasonable.

Tolar argued though WRCB is asking for a substantial percentage increase, the terms amount to a few cents per subscriber in Dish Network's rate.

"They need to be in the ballpark of what competitors are paying," he said. "It's a very small percentage of the total take of all their subscribers in the Chattanooga market."

Aaron Johnson, spokesman for Dish, called that argument disingenuous.

"We would be paying millions of dollars more than what we're paying today to carry that station," he said. "That would be like demanding $12 for a gallon of milk and saying, 'Well, that's only a couple cents per sip.'"