Dish Stops Airing Fox Sports, MSG in Contract Dispute

Dish Stops Airing Fox Sports, MSG in Contract Dispute
A Dish Network Corp. receiver sits on a home in Parker, Colorado.. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg News

Dish Network Corp., the second-largest U.S. satellite-television provider, isn’t carrying Fox Regional Sports, MSG Network and MSG Plus after disagreements stymied attempts to renew contracts for the content.

Fox removed access to 19 local sports channels and other programming, Dish said in a statement today. Madison Square Garden Inc. said it couldn’t agree with Dish on rates, content and other terms by a midnight deadline, according to a separate statement today.

Pay-TV companies such as Dish are fighting increased fees by content providers as they try to keep costs low and prevent customer losses, leading to disputes. Dish lost almost 20,000 customers in the second quarter amid increased competition and a weak economy that hurt spending.

“These are really tough economic times and we have to make sure we have the flexibility with our customers to meet their needs and provide content at a reasonable price,” said Dave Shull, senior vice president of programming for Dish.

Fox, owned by News Corp., was asking for a rate increase of more than 50 percent for the content, which also includes FX and the National Geographic Channel, according to Dish. Fox said that Dish was exaggerating the fee increase and called it “flatly wrong” in an e-mailed statement.

“We’ve been attempting to negotiate with Dish for almost six months,” said Mike Hopkins, president of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox. “We have made fair and reasonable proposals that are consistent with our agreements with hundreds of other cable and satellite companies.”

Resume Negotiations

Madison Square Garden, which broadcasts New York-based sports like the New York Knicks basketball games, called on Dish to resume negotiations and reconsider its proposals.

“Dish has rejected numerous fair and reasonable proposals at rates, terms and conditions consistent with our deals and with other operators,” Dan Ronayne, general manager for MSG Networks, said in the statement.

Dish, based in Englewood, Colorado, offered Fox a “double digit” rate increase, though the two companies are still far apart on the pricing, Shull said. Dish offered Madison Square Garden an increased rate yesterday, and the companies disagree on a music channel that Dish doesn’t want to carry, he said.

Dish rose 12 cents to $19.33 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nadsaq Stock Market trading. Madison Square Garden gained 21 cents to $21.30 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading and News Corp. advanced 18 cents to $13.24 on the Nasdaq.

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