Sinclair Reaches Accord With Dish to End Blackout of Local TV

  • Dish thanks federal regulators for brokering settlement
  • Channels being restored to 5 million pay-TV customers

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. reached an agreement in principle with Dish Network Corp. after federal regulators intervened to end a contract dispute that left about 5 million satellite-TV customers without local channels.

The parties agreed to a two-week extension of their current accord while they work out the details of a new distribution agreement, according to a statement Wednesday. Terms weren’t disclosed. The broadcaster was in the process of restoring access to 129 stations in 79 markets that went dark Tuesday.

“We are pleased to announce that we were able to come to an agreement in principal with Dish, and we regret any inconvenience that was caused to the Dish subscribers as a result of the short blackout,” Sinclair General Counsel Barry Faber said in the statement.

Tensions have grown as broadcasters have demanded higher rates from cable- and satellite-TV providers that deliver their programming to consumers. Disputes have triggered 145 blackouts so far in 2015, compared with 107 last year and 127 in 2013, according to the American Television Alliance, an advocacy group with members including Dish.

Fees paid to broadcast networks and stations by subscription TV services may jump 21 percent to almost $6 billion this year, and 90 percent to $9.3 billion by 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. Sinclair operates local stations affiliated with CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, 21st Century Fox Inc., Comcast Corp.’s NBC and others.

FCC Intervenes

Dish had asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to intervene in what it called the largest blackout in television history, affecting viewers in 36 states.

“We are grateful for the FCC’s work on behalf of consumers to actively broker a productive path forward,” Jeff Blum, Dish’s senior vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a separate statement.

The satellite TV provider also said it asked the FCC to halt action on a complaint it lodged against Sinclair with the commission. The agency said it convened an emergency meeting of the companies with its media bureau.

“On behalf of more than 5 million consumers nationwide, I am pleased Dish and Sinclair have agreed to end one of the largest blackouts in history and extend their negotiations,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “The FCC will remain vigilant while the negotiations continue.”

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